US commerce secretary plans China trip

'There is no national security risk to the United States selling coffee and beauty aids to China,' Raimondo says.
Alex Willemyns for RFA
US commerce secretary plans China trip “We need to promote [American business] wherever we can, but we need to protect wherever we can,” says U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.
Jeff Kowalsky/AFP file photo

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo plans to visit Beijing “this summer,” she said Tuesday, with the dates yet to be determined.

Such a trip would be the fourth to China by a member of President Joe Biden’s cabinet since last month, with Raimondo following on the heels of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and climate envoy John Kerry amid a cooling of bilateral relations.

U.S. officials have cast the trips as an attempted reset in ties with Beijing after nearly a year of increasing tensions that started when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in August visited the democratic island of Taiwan, which China claims as sovereign territory.

It has since been inflamed by U.S. bans on the export of high-end microchips to China, which has been led by Raimondo’s Department of  Commerce, and February’s high-profile spy balloon incident.

Raimondo told an event at the Wilson Center on Tuesday that she had to walk a fine line in promoting American business interests in China – America’s third-largest export market after Canada and Mexico – while ensuring the country’s national security interests are protected.

“I do plan to travel later this summer. We’re still finalizing a date and plans,” Raimondo said. “At a high level, we need to do business with China, wherever we can. We need to promote [American businesses] wherever we can, but we need to protect wherever we can.”

Balancing act

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Congress, officials in the U.S. Commerce Department and even the president have said the ban on exports of advanced microchips to China is a key national security priority, arguing that China is using the chips for military purposes.

The bans – and billions of dollars in subsidies for chipmakers in the United States – have led to complaints from Beijing, which has called the moves examples of a “Cold War mentality” and protectionism.

But Raimondo said she believed she can still promote American business in China while standing firm on the Biden administration’s chip export bans, even if that can be a difficult balancing act.

“There are many industries – food, entertainment,” she said of areas where America could expand trade with China at little risk. “I was recently with [CEO] Bob Iger of Disney –  their Shanghai park is growing gangbusters. Starbucks is opening a store a day in China.”

She also pointed to the “health and beauty product space” as U.S. industries that could be promoted in China while still “working with our allies to deny” Beijing the technology it needs to build its military.

“There is no national security risk to the United States selling coffee and beauty aids to China. It creates jobs in America,” Raimondo said. “Having said that, we have to protect what we must, and be eyes-wide-open about the threats, and strategic competition.”


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.