BEIJING: The United States will put national security concerns first but does not seek to decouple from China, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told China’s Vice Premier He Lifeng at a meeting on Tuesday.

She is the latest Biden administration official to visit China in a bid to strengthen communications, particularly on economy and defense, as friction between the world’s two largest economies threatens to shake business ties.

“While we will never compromise in protecting our national security, I want to be clear that we will never seek to decouple or hold China’s economy back,” Raimondo said during opening remarks in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

A confidant of President Xi Jinping, He took up the post of China’s economy tsar in March, having earlier run the powerful state planner.

He replaced former vice premier Liu He, a Harvard-trained economist and fluent English speaker who had been popular among US officials.

Earlier on Tuesday, Raimondo and Tourism Minister Hu Hepin agreed to hold the 14th China-US Tourism Leadership Summit in China in the first half of 2024.

The step aimed to further revive and develop tourism co-operation between the two nations, the Commerce Department said in a statement.

The last such summit was held in 2019 in Seattle.

Before that, it had met every year, alternating between the countries.

Raimondo has made boosting travel and tourism a big part of her trip.

This month, China and the United States agreed to double the number of flights permitted between them, which are still only a fraction of the number before the pandemic.

If China returned to 2019 US tourism levels, that would add $30 billion to the US economy and 50,000 US jobs, Raimondo said.

Raimondo plans a visit on Wednesday to Shanghai Disneyland, a joint venture of Walt Disney and Chinese state-owned Shendi Group.

On Monday, Raimondo touted a decision by Washington and Beijing to agree to a new formal working group on commercial issues.

US firms have reported growing challenges with operating in China, which has sharply criticized US efforts to block its access to advanced semiconductors.

On Monday, the administration agreed to launch an effort to exchange information on export control enforcement.

The first meeting of the initiative was held on Tuesday at the commerce ministry in Beijing, led by Matthew Axelrod, US assistant secretary for export enforcement, the department said.

Such an exchange offered a platform to reduce misunderstandings of US national security policies, Raimondo said on Monday, but added, “We are not compromising or negotiating on matters of national security. Period.” Xie Feng, China’s envoy to the United States, welcomed the announcement.

Raimondo and Commerce Minister Wang Wentao had “rational, candid and constructive communication” on China-US economic and trade ties and issues of common interest, Xie said in a post on X, formerly called Twitter.

Raimondo said on Monday she had raised concerns about curbs on chipmakers Intel and Micron in more than four hours of talks with Wang on a range of US business issues.

The trip would have wide benefits for American business operating in China, she said.

“We’re delivering. We will have that formal communication,” she said.


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