US says seeking more ‘predictable’ business environment in China

The United States wants to work with China to ensure a more “predictable” environment for American businesses in Shanghai, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told officials in the economic hub on Wednesday.

Speaking with Shanghai Communist Party chief Chen Jining on day four of a bridge-building trip to China, Raimondo said a “stable economic relationship is good for America, good for China and good for the world”.

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo is greeted by Shanghai Party Secretary Chen Jining in Shanghai on August 30, 2023. Photo: Andy Wong/POOL/AFP.

“The US-China economic relationship is among the most consequential in the world,” she told Chen.

Raimondo told Chen she was looking forward to talks to “bring about a more predictable business environment, predictable regulatory environment, and a level playing field for American businesses here in Shanghai”.

US firms in China have long complained about what they see as an unfair business environment, with limited protection for intellectual property and preferential treatment afforded to domestic competitors.

Those fears have been compounded this year by a broad crackdown on US consulting firms operating in China.

A new anti-espionage law, which came into force on July 1, has also spooked foreign and domestic firms as they try to decipher authorities’ intentions and, crucially, pinpoint what is off-limits.

‘Mutual trust’

In a Tuesday meeting with Vice Premier He Lifeng in Beijing, Raimondo raised what Washington sees as unfair trade practices by China, according to a US Department of Commerce readout.

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Washington DC Capitol building. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

She also emphasised the “importance of strengthening the protection of trade secrets for US businesses operating in China”.

The commerce secretary is one of a number of senior US officials to visit China in recent months — part of an effort by Washington to improve its working relationship with its largest strategic rival.

Raimondo has used the trip to seek more open discussions with the Chinese over restrictive trade curbs and the two sides have agreed to set up a working group to iron out the laundry list of trade disputes between them.

She has also repeatedly stressed that US curbs on Chinese businesses — which Washington says are aimed at protecting its national security — need not affect the broader economic relationship.

But Chinese officials have pushed back, with Premier Li Qiang telling Raimondo Tuesday that US moves to “politicise” trade issues would prove “disastrous” for the global economy.

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China’s Premier Li Qiang. Photo: Wikicommons.

“Politicizing economic and trade issues and overstretching the concept of security will… seriously affect bilateral relations and mutual trust,” Li told Raimondo, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.

On Wednesday, Raimondo met with students at New York University’s campus in Shanghai and spoke at a meeting of women executives hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in the city.

The American Chamber of Commerce in China’s president told AFP the organisation backed Raimondo’s comments.

“We’ve been very clear in our meetings with the Chinese government that while some US companies are prospering, certain actions, including raids on companies and restricting data flows, are not conducive to attracting additional FDI (foreign direct investment),” said Michael Hart.

The commerce secretary also visited Disneyland Shanghai, and was due to head to Shanghai’s Pudong Airport for a press conference before departing the country.

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