US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will travel to China next week, making her the fourth cabinet-level official to visit since June as the US seeks to sustain high-level contacts despite strains over Taiwan and US plans to limit some exports.
Raimondo will meet with senior Chinese officials and American business leaders in Beijing and Shanghai to discuss “issues relating to the US-China commercial relationship, challenges faced by US businesses and areas for potential cooperation,” the Commerce Department said in a press release.
The trip, from Aug. 27 to Aug. 30, comes at a sensitive moment in the Washington-Beijing relationship.
Earlier in August, President Joe Biden issued new investment curbs, exacerbating tensions that were already fraught over issues including Taiwan, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, intellectual property threats, and an alleged Chinese spy balloon that the US shot down in February.
Those flareups have created a difficult backdrop for other Biden administration officials during their trips to China. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and climate envoy John Kerry have each returned with a commitment to further dialogue but nothing more definite.
It’s unclear what Raimondo will deliver for US businesses, but people familiar with the matter have said she’d been hesitant to make the trip without knowing that it will produce positive outcomes for American firms.
One potential consequence could be a working group with China’s commerce ministry that would discuss export controls as well as Chinese companies that have been added to a Commerce Department export blacklist.
Yet that idea has sparked harsh criticism from Republicans in Congress, who wrote to Raimondo last week urging her not to allow the Chinese to weigh in on the investment curbs. Those curbs include the recent order from Biden limiting US investments in some Chinese semiconductor, quantum computing and artificial intelligence companies, which built on a set of controls announced last October.
A Commerce representative declined to comment when asked for comment on the potential working group and Republicans’ criticism.
Raimondo will also seek to promote US business interests in China, with a top issue being Boeing Co.’s stalled delivery of its 737 Max planes to Chinese airlines. China banned delivery following two deadly Max crashes in 2019.