Janet Yellen in China: US treasury secretary aiming to keep trade relations on firmer footing

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen arrived in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou on Thursday for the first leg of her week-long trip aimed at helping manage the trade relations between the world’s two largest economies.

Yellen, who arrived in Guangzhou just after 6pm local time, media reports said, was greeted by China’s vice-minister of finance, Liao Min, and US ambassador to China Nicholas Burns.

Ahead of her trip, Yellen said she would seek to “advance America’s economic and national security interests”, adding that the US had worked to “responsibly manage” its relationship with China.

Chinese vice-minister of Finance Liao Min and US ambassador to China Nicholas Burns (right) receive US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen upon her arrival in Guangzhou on Thursday. Photo: AFP

“During my time in China, I’ll focus on advancing a healthy economic relationship that provides a level playing field for American workers and firms, and furthering cooperation on shared challenges like illicit finance and climate change,” she wrote Thursday morning on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“As the world’s two largest economies, it is critical that we maintain clear channels of communication – particularly when we disagree. The American people expect us to responsibly manage this relationship, and the world expects that we work together where we can.”

Her trip followed Tuesday’s phone call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Joe Biden, with the two leaders exchanging views and discussing their differences on a wide range of issues, including US tech curbs and Chinese barriers.

Yellen is widely viewed as one of the most dovish members of the Biden administration, and has years of experience in negotiating with the Chinese officials.

Supply chain shifts, US curbs prompt calls for rethink of China’s trade strategy

Before her departure on Tuesday, Yellen said she would advocate for American workers and businesses to ensure they are treated fairly.

Yellen said she would also “press Chinese counterparts on unfair trade practices”, as well as industrial overcapacity, and to discuss cooperation in the fight against illicit finance, global financial stability, climate change and debt relief of some developing countries.

According to Bloomberg, Yellen suggested that the US would retain the option to protect new industrial sectors against China as Beijing poured money into manufacturing and exporting goods in new industries such as renewable energy.

US-China all-out trade war unlikely but soft-power gap will persist: Joseph Nye

The treasury secretary had earlier warned that Beijing’s past support for sectors like steel and aluminium had led to “substantial overinvestment and excess capacity”, and that this was now happening in industries like solar and electric vehicles.

Yellen is scheduled to have a round table discussion with economists to discuss challenges and opportunities in the Chinese economy on Friday morning, before meeting US business representatives to hear their thoughts on China’s overcapacity, intellectual property protection, and other on-the-ground issues in the afternoon.

The trip is Yellen’s second visit to China in less than a year. She last visited in July 2023 when tensions between the two countries were also high, but her engagement helped to restart dialogue and launch bilateral working groups on economic and financial policy.

Supply chain shifts, US curbs prompt calls for rethink of China’s trade strategy


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