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US companies see China as ‘uninvestable’, warns Raimondo

US secretary of commerce Gina Raimondo has told China’s number two official Premier Li Qiang that Washington does not want to decouple from the world’s second-largest economy and hopes to expand trade.

Her meeting in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing with Li, a close confidant of President Xi Jinping and the head of China’s cabinet, comes as the US and China seek to restore dialogue after months of deteriorating bilateral relations.

“President Biden asked me to come here to convey the message that we do not seek to decouple, we seek to maintain our $700bn commercial relationship with China, and we hope that that relationship can provide stability for the overall relationship,” Raimondo said at the start of the meeting with Li.

Earlier, Raimondo met China’s economic policy chief, He Lifeng, and culture and tourism minister Hu Heping on the second day of a four-day visit to China. Her trip follows visits by secretary of state Antony Blinken and Treasury secretary Janet Yellen this year.

US officials said their Chinese counterparts had been receptive to the talks with Raimondo. China, which is struggling to revitalise its economy after pandemic lockdowns last year, is seeking to reinvigorate foreign investment amid a deep property market downturn and falling exports. 

Raimondo and Hu agreed to hold a tourism conference in China in the first half of next year in an effort to revive travel between the two countries, which was curtailed during the pandemic.

Raimondo said she and Hu had “agreed to work together to advance our people-to-people ties through increased tourism and educational and student exchange”.

On Tuesday, US and Chinese officials also began a new dialogue on export controls, agreed by Raimondo with China’s commerce minister Wang Wentao on Monday.

Washington described the talks between government officials on the “export control enforcement information exchange” as “a platform to reduce misunderstanding of US national security policies”.

China’s ministry of commerce said the talks would serve to “exchange information related to export control, in accordance with their respective laws”.

A senior US commerce official said their country viewed the exchange as a forum to increase transparency on its rules restricting trade and investment linked to sensitive areas of China’s economy, and not one for negotiating policy.

President Joe Biden this month announced an executive order banning some US investment into China’s quantum computing, advanced chip and artificial intelligence sectors to stop the Chinese military from accessing American technology and capital.

China, for its part, has announced curbs on the export of gallium and germanium — used in chipmaking — and the use of Micron Technology products in its critical infrastructure.

Beijing has also announced restrictions on the export of drones and drone components, citing their potential military use.

The talks under the export control information exchange would be for government officials, the senior US commerce official said. The exchange of information was one of several new mechanisms agreed for dialogue between the two sides.

“We need more channels of communication. A few CEOs said to me that they were desperate for more communication,” Raimondo told US business leaders on Monday.

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