Republican lawmakers are warning Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo not to let China weigh in on US export controls during her upcoming trip to Beijing, where she may announce a working group with her Chinese counterparts focused on planned American regulation of investment in high-tech Chinese companies. 

The working group, a potential partnership between her department and China’s commerce ministry that was first reported by Bloomberg News, would discuss US restrictions on American firms’ high-tech exports to China and Chinese companies that have been added to a Commerce Department export blacklist.

Those restrictions include a recent order from President Joe Biden limiting US investments in some Chinese semiconductor, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence companies. The order, which aims to restrict China’s ability to develop next-generation military and intelligence technologies, puts Raimondo in a tough spot when she visits China later this month.

Export controls have provoked fierce opposition from Beijing at a time when the Biden administration is trying to improve sour relations, all while hard-liners in Washington are pushing for even more curbs — and urging against negotiating with Chinese officials. 3

Representatives Michael McCaul, Mike Gallagher, and Young Kim and Senator Bill Hagerty wrote in a letter Friday to Raimondo and Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the US should “stop taking the bait” when China offers working groups absent any intention of abandoning policies that prompted US controls in the first place. 

“U.S. export control policy towards the PRC should not be up for negotiation, period,” the lawmakers wrote. “Decisions on the nature and scope of U.S. export controls should be taken in Washington, not Beijing.”

The Commerce Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter or Raimondo’s plans for a working group.

The letter is the latest in a series of criticisms from Republican lawmakers of the Biden administration’s China approach, citing travel to Beijing by cabinet-level envoys who return with little more than a commitment to further dialogue. Raimondo will be the fourth Biden official to make the trip since June, following visits by Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and climate envoy John Kerry. 

Blinken proposed during his trip a working group with China focused on fentanyl — but Chinese officials rebuffed the offer unless the US agreed to lift sanctions on a Chinese firm accused of human rights abuses. After the Wall Street Journal reported last month that the Biden administration is considering fulfilling that request in order to secure Beijing’s cooperation in the fentanyl fight, 17 Republicans wrote a letter to Raimondo and Blinken slamming the potential US concessions. 

Raimondo will also seek on her trip to promote US exports, such as restarting Boeing Co.’s delivery of its 737 Max planes to Chinese airlines. China barred deliveries following two deadly crashes in 2019.