Plans are under way for US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and her Chinese counterparts to hold meetings in Beijing and Washington later this year, continuing the governments’ efforts to ramp up face-to-face engagement to improve ties.
The announcement came after the two countries’ top economic officials met for the first time in Zurich on Wednesday, pledging to improve communication as a way to avoid more serious confrontation in a period of heightened tensions.
Yellen “looks forward to traveling to China and to welcoming her counterparts to the United States in the near future,” the Treasury said in a statement following the meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.
No further details were given on the possible timing. A Treasury official declined to comment on whether any invitations were issued during the session.
A gathering in Beijing for the pair would mark Yellen’s first trip to China as Treasury chief and would likely follow a visit to the Chinese capital by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, planned for early this year.
The move is another step forward for US-China dialogue that was jump-started in November when Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping held their first face-to-face discussion in Bali, Indonesia.
“We’re certainly seeing more engagement between the US and China,” Gita Gopinath, the International Monetary Fund’s No. 2 official, told Bloomberg Television’s Francine Lacqua at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday.
“These meetings are critical,” she said. “These are the two largest economies in the world. It’s important for the rest of the world that they work closely together.”
This was echoed in Davos by Larry Summers, who had Yellen’s job from 1999 to 2001.
“It’s always better to be talking,” he told Bloomberg Television’s “Wall Street Week” with David Westin. “The right approach is small victories. We’re not going to have a broad rapprochement or transformation.”
Yellen and Liu made clear in remarks that preceded their closed-door meeting that they intended to address directly several areas of disagreement. But they both acknowledged the importance that regular communication could have in avoiding conflict and working to solve problems of mutual interest.
“We do face problems, but as President Xi said, we only have one planet earth and there are always more solutions than problems,” Liu said in prepared remarks, adding that he looked forward to “serious communication and coordination” on macroeconomic affairs, climate change and other shared issues.
Speaking to reporters following the meeting, a senior Treasury official characterized it as positive and productive, and lacking a confrontational tone.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the two groups traded questions about their economies, with the US side providing details about inflation and the Chinese offering information about how they plan to contain issues in their commercial real estate sector and a surge in Covid-19 infections.
Yellen and Liu sat together alone during a coffee break, discussing at length the most serious concerns affecting the US-China relationship, according to the official, who wasn’t privy to the details of the conversation.
The Treasury and China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency said separately that both sides acknowledged the importance for the global economy of strengthening macro-policy communication.
“They also agreed about the importance of sustainable development and that they would enhance cooperation on climate finance on a bilateral and multilateral basis,” the Treasury added in a statement.
China also expressed concern over US economic, trade and technological policies toward it, according to Xinhua.