China-US relations

US commerce secretary tells China to guarantee fair treatment for American companies

Wilbur Ross also presses China to ‘rebalance bilateral trade and investment relations’ during meeting in Beijing

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 September, 2017, 3:52pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 September, 2017, 11:17pm

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told China there was a need for it to “guarantee fair and reciprocal treatment for US firms”, during a visit to Beijing, where he tried to strike an upbeat tone amid trade tensions between the two countries.

Ross told Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Monday that the United States hoped for “very good deliverables” when US President Donald Trump visits China – a trip that is expected to take place in November.

In a statement on Tuesday, the US Commerce Department said that Ross had also pressed China on the “need to rebalance bilateral trade and investment relations”, and urged it to take “meaningful action” on trade issues.

“Secretary Ross once again continued to stress the need for concrete action to address the concerns of US businesses, and that the US would take action to defend American workers and businesses if cooperative efforts bear no fruit,” the statement said.

The stumbling blocks America and China must overcome to improve their trade links

China said it was committed to further market opening and welcomed participation by US firms, with both sides supporting talks to resolve trade frictions.

Ross met senior Chinese officials, including Vice-Premier Wang Yang, who handles an annual US-China economic dialogue, and He Lifeng, the head of China’s state planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission.

Speaking at the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Hong Kong on Tuesday, Ross said he hoped the goodwill between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping could help resolve difficult issues between the countries, noting that progress had been made in recent years.

“We got a number of genetic products for agriculture approved, we got some licences approved for investment banking, we got some progress on electronic payment systems,” he said.

“Now we move into harder, bigger and more serious things. Hopefully the goodwill has been built up between President Xi and President Trump ... We are trying to get things organised for the president’s visit in November,” he said, adding the tone of the bilateral relations was “pretty good”.

China’s relationship with the United States has been strained by the Trump administration’s criticism of China’s trade practices and by demands that Beijing do more to pressure North Korea to halt its nuclear weapons and missiles programmes.

Xi and Trump met for the first time in person at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida in April. Trump has since played up his personal relationship with Xi, even as he kept up his criticism of China over North Korea and trade.

The two sides launched a 100-day economic plan at that meeting, including some industry-specific announcements such as the resumption of American beef sales in China.

China says ‘good preparations’ should be made for Trump’s visit

But US business groups have expressed disappointment that the talks have not yielded more progress in getting China to loosen restrictions on foreign investment in many sectors.

Ross’s trip to China to “prepare the ground” for Trump’s visit comes after the US administration earlier this month blocked a Chinese-backed private equity firm from buying a US-based chip maker.

In August, Trump authorised an inquiry into China’s alleged theft of intellectual property – the first direct trade measure by his administration against Beijing. China has called that move “irresponsible”.