US commerce secretary to visit China next week for talks

FILE PHOTO: Senate Appropriations Committee hearing in Washington

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will travel to China next week for meetings with senior Chinese government officials and U.S. business leaders, the department said on Tuesday, marking the latest in a recent series of high-level visits.

Last month, Raimondo vowed to go forward with the visit despite the reported Chinese hacking of her department's emails.

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Raimondo will carry a message that the U.S. is not seeking to decouple from China, but will protect its national security. She will reinforce that the U.S. is focused on sustaining an economic relationship with China, he added.

Raimondo met with Xie Feng, China's ambassador to the United States, on Tuesday ahead of the trip.

Raimondo "raised issues of importance to the United States and American businesses and workers and discussed issues relating to the U.S.-China commercial relationship, challenges faced by U.S. businesses, and areas for potential cooperation," the Commerce Department said.

On Tuesday, China welcomed the department's decision to lift export control restrictions on 27 Chinese entities, saying it is conducive to normal trade between Chinese and U.S. firms. The U.S. Commerce Department on Monday removed the 27 Chinese companies from its "Unverified List."

Companies are given that designation if the U.S. cannot complete on-site visits to determine if they can be trusted to receive sensitive U.S. technology exports. Companies on the list cannot use license exceptions for exports.

Commerce said the removal "demonstrates the concrete benefit companies receive when they or a host government cooperates" to complete checks.

Raimondo "looks forward to constructive discussions," during the visit to Beijing and Shanghai from Aug. 27-30, the department said in a statement.

Last week, China said it welcomed Raimondo's expected visit.

Raimondo said recently that she wanted to raise "really serious concerns about the way they are targeting U.S. tech companies, about the way they don't respect intellectual property but also try to find lanes of commerce."

Her trip follows a four-day visit last month by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who held more than 10 hours of meetings with senior officials in Beijing.

The U.S. and China agreed this month to approve twice the number of passenger flights now permitted by air carriers between the two countries, in a rare sign of cooperation between the world's largest two economies.

Raimondo was among a group of senior U.S. officials whose emails were hacked this year by a group Microsoft said was based in China, according to a person briefed on the matter.

Earlier, China's embassy in Washington said that identifying the source of cyber attacks was complex and warned against groundless speculations and accusations.

In July, Raimondo said the Biden administration was seeking to carefully target U.S. controls on exports to China.

Raimondo met Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao in May, discussing trade, investment and export policies in what was until then the first U.S.-China cabinet-level exchange in months, after a string of trade and national security disagreements derailed plans for re-engagement.

In April, Raimondo warned Chinese cloud companies could pose threats. Some Republican senators want her to add such companies to the entity list that imposes U.S. export controls on foreign companies.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Marguerita Choy and Bill Berkrot)