New US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin makes phone calls to Chinese economic officials

Mnuchin pledges to work with Chinese leadership on wide range of economic, financial, trade and investment issues, US Treasury Department says

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 February, 2017, 10:06pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 February, 2017, 10:54am

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has highlighted the need of a strong but balanced economic relationship between the world’s largest two economies in phone calls with China’s top economic officials, according to the US Treasury Department.

The Chinese official news agency did not elaborate on the calls other than to say the Vice Premier Wang Yang had spoken to Mnuchin, at the request of the Americans, and that the two exchanged opinions on issues including Sino-US economic cooperation.

The US Treasury Department said Mnuchin made separate calls to Liu He, the head of the office of the Central Leading Group on Financial and Economic Affairs; Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People’s Bank of China, and Finance Minister Xiao Jie.

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“In each of these calls, Secretary Mnuchin underscored that he looked forward to fostering strong US-China engagement during his tenure. The secretary emphasised the importance of achieving a more balanced bilateral economic relationship going forward,” the statement said.

“He conveyed his commitment to working with the Chinese leadership on a comprehensive set of economic, financial, trade and investment, and illicit finance issues, in bilateral and multilateral forums.”

Mnuchin, who helped draw up Donald Trump’s economic agenda during the presidential campaign, was sworn in as Treasury secretary on Monday. He then phoned counterparts in the UK Germany and Japan before calling the Chinese officials.

During his presidential campaign, Trump accused China of manipulating its currency to gain a trade surplus over the US, and threatened to launch 45 per cent punitive tariffs on Chinese exports.

He pledged to reverse the US trade deficit and pressed manufacturers to move production back to the US to create more jobs.

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Fang Xinghai, a vice chairman of the Chinese Securities Regulatory Commission, said at a forum yesterday that Trump had softened his tone toward China but Fang warned against placing too much hope in bilateral economic ties advancing rapidly.

Fang said that while China had economic tools to constrain the US, it should continue to open up to win support from the US business community.

“The secretary commended Vice Premier Wang for the critical role that he has played as a partner in managing the bilateral economic relationship and expressed his desire to work closely together”, the Treasury statement said.

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Intergovernment contact between China and the US stepped up following a phone call between Trump and Xi last week.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his US counterpart Rex Tillerson yesterday on the sidelines of the Group of 20 ministers’ meeting in Bonn, Germany, marking the first high-level face-to-face Sino-US encounter in Trump’s administration.