United States and China form working groups on economics and finance to improve bilateral relations

2023-09-23 13:58:29

The United States and China will create two working groups to discuss economic and financial issues, the latest sign of an easing in relations between the world’s largest economies.

The groups “will provide ongoing structured channels for frank and substantive discussions on economic and financial policy matters, as well as an exchange of information on macroeconomic and financial developments,” the US Treasury Department said in a statement released on Friday.

Meetings will be held regularly at vice ministerial level, with officials reporting to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Chinese Vice Prime Minister He Lifeng, according to the Treasury. This framework is notably less extensive than previous bilateral forums this century, in which multiple cabinet members participated and addressed a wide range of topics.

The announcement comes after a series of visits by senior US officials to China that appear to have helped stabilize relations. Tensions between Washington and Beijing had risen over several issues, including US export controls, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last year and an alleged Chinese spy balloon discovered floating over the US.

The creation of the two groups also marks the resumption of regular economic dialogue between the two nations for the first time since 2018, when the Trump administration abandoned structured engagement. US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo also established a new working group on trade issues during her visit to China in August, as well as a regular meeting to discuss export controls.

Washington and Beijing agreed to establish the groups during Yellen’s visit to China in July, a senior Treasury official said, adding that the groups will help each side explain its actions and allow the U.S. to raise problems and seek solutions. They will also discuss issues ranging from debt restructuring for developing countries to topics covering regulations and stability.

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China’s Ministry of Finance and central bank said in a statement about the forums that there will be “regular and ad hoc meetings”, while the Treasury said the meetings will be “on a regular cadence”. Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said in a comment on social media that there is a common expectation in the international community for the US and China, the world’s two largest economies, to strengthen communication and coordination in the economic and financial fields, and stabilize the confidence in global markets.

The working groups will also serve as a platform for China to continue to contest issues including the “unilateral suppression and sanctions” that the US has imposed on China, the CCTV commentary said, adding that it may not be easy for both sides to maintain them with so many disagreements.

Yellen, in a statement published on X, said that “it is vital that we talk, especially when we disagree.” “These working groups will serve as important forums to communicate America’s interests and concerns, promote healthy economic competition between our two countries with a level playing field for American workers and businesses, and advance cooperation on global challenges,” Yellen said.

In another sign that both sides are trying to reduce tensions, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently discussed a possible conversation between Xi Jinping and Joe Biden. Those talks are aimed at ensuring the two presidents are prepared to meet at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco in November, according to people familiar with China’s preparations.

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