U.S. Treasury Secretary Yellen speaks with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, U.S. side does not mention comprehensive economic dialogue mechanism

Senior U.S. and Chinese trade and economic officials met again to seek to stabilize and advance the tremendous economic and trade relationship between the two countries amid continued tensions in the overall bilateral relationship.

Treasury Secretary Yellen held her first videoconference with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He to discuss the Biden-Harris Administration’s plans to support a continued strong U.S. economic recovery and the importance of cooperation between the two sides in areas that are in the U.S. interest, the Treasury Department said in a press release issued Tuesday evening (June 1, 2021). Yellen also spoke candidly about topics of U.S. concern and looked forward to continuing talks with Vice Premier Liu He in the future, the statement added.

Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported on Wednesday morning China time that Liu He, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Vice Premier of the State Council, who is the Chinese lead of the U.S.-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue, held a video call with U.S. Treasury Secretary Yellen that morning, saying the two sides considered the U.S.-China economic relationship important and had extensive exchanges on the macroeconomic situation and multilateral and bilateral cooperation in a spirit of equality and mutual respect.

The Xinhua report did not mention that the talks covered topics of concern to the U.S. side. The U.S. Treasury Department’s press release did not mention that Liu He is the Chinese lead for the U.S.-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue.

The China-U.S. Comprehensive Economic Dialogue is a new mechanism for dialogue between the two countries established by Chinese President Xi Jinping and then-U.S. President Donald Trump in 2017, with the first dialogue held in July of the same year. Under this mechanism, the two countries signed the first phase of a trade agreement in January 2020, suspending the trade war between the world’s two largest economies. Shortly thereafter, relations between the two countries took a sharp turn for the worse when a new coronavirus pandemic originating in Wuhan, China, swept the world.

The Biden administration took office in January this year, claiming it would conduct a comprehensive assessment of U.S. policy toward China. At the same time, the new administration has continued many of the former Trump administration’s economic and trade policies toward China, including maintaining a number of punitive tariff measures against China, but has not publicly stated that it will follow the U.S.-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue mechanism.

Last week, U.S. Trade Representative Dyche spoke with Liu He, opening the first call between top U.S. and Chinese trade and economic officials since President Biden took office. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative also did not mention Liu He as the Chinese lead for the U.S.-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue in a post-meeting press release.