In an effort to strengthen economic ties between the United States and China, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is scheduled to meet with Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng in San Francisco this week. This meeting aims to foster a budding economic dialogue between the world's two largest economies in anticipation of a U.S.-hosted summit of Pacific Rim leaders. The U.S. Treasury, in a statement on Monday, revealed that the meetings scheduled for November 9-10 will also bring together new economic and financial forums launched in October by both the U.S. Treasury and China's finance ministry and central bank.
This meeting is not the first encounter between Yellen and He; they previously met in July when Yellen visited Beijing. During that meeting, their discussions sought to stabilize the deteriorating U.S.-China relationship amidst escalating U.S. restrictions on sensitive technologies.
The San Francisco meetings come just ahead of the Biden administration's hosting of ministers and leaders from Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) countries, scheduled from November 11-17. This gathering provides an opportunity for U.S. President Joe Biden to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
While there is no expectation of specific "deliverables" from the Yellen-He meetings, a senior U.S. Treasury official emphasized that this is not a "policy trade" situation where one-party trade something for another. Instead, Yellen's primary objective is to gain a better understanding of how the newly established U.S.-China economic communication channel will function and ensure its resilience to unexpected challenges. This will pave the way for more frequent interactions.
Yellen also intends to discuss China's plans to support its economic growth and the circumstances that might prompt adjustments to their policy direction.
Amid concerns that China might flood U.S. and global markets with manufactured goods, Yellen is expected to caution against extensive industrial subsidies to state-owned enterprises and the exclusion of U.S. companies from Chinese domestic markets. In an opinion piece published in the Washington Post, Yellen articulated her concerns about Beijing's unfair economic practices, emphasizing the importance of "healthy competition" and dispelling notions of provoking a "disorderly wholesale private-sector pullback from China."
The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson confirmed He's visit to the U.S. from November 8-12, describing him as China's lead representative for China-U.S. economic and trade affairs, but did not provide details of specific meetings.
It's worth noting that these ongoing communications have been instrumental in clarifying U.S. national security policies to Chinese counterparts, particularly with regards to export controls on sensitive technologies and restrictions on U.S. investment in China.
However, Yellen emphasized that her engagement with He is not an attempt to recreate the broad U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue from the Obama era, which was criticized for its ineffectiveness. Instead, the focus is on addressing specific, high-priority economic issues where tangible progress can be made. These include collaborating on global challenges such as addressing climate change, expediting debt relief for impoverished nations, and curbing illicit financial flows that support terrorism and the illegal drug trade.