The United States and China on Monday agreed to hold regular conversations about commercial issues and restrictions on access to advanced technology, the latest step this summer toward reducing tensions between the world’s two largest economies.
The announcement came during a visit to Beijing by Gina Raimondo, the U.S. commerce secretary, who is meeting with senior Chinese officials in Beijing and Shanghai this week.
The agreement to hold regular discussions is the latest move toward rebuilding frayed links between the two countries, a process that had already begun during three trips in the past 10 weeks by senior American officials: Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen and John Kerry, the president’s climate envoy.
“I think it’s a very good sign that we agreed to concrete dialogue and I would say, more than just kind of nebulous commitments to continue to talk, this is an official channel,” Ms. Raimondo said in an interview after four hours of negotiations with China’s commerce minister, Wang Wentao.
Bilateral talks about trade, technology and other economic issues were once the norm between the United States and China, but those discussions have atrophied in recent years. China halted eight bilateral discussion groups a year ago in retaliation for a visit to Taiwan by Representative Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who was House speaker at the time.
The flight of a Chinese spy balloon that traveled across the United States and was then shot down over the Atlantic Ocean last winter only deepened divisions between China and the United States, and resulted in Mr. Blinken initially canceling a trip to Beijing.
But relations have begun to thaw as both nations, whose economies are tied to one another, have opened the door to resuming diplomatic ties.
Ms. Raimondo said on Monday night that she had an “open” and “pragmatic” discussion with Mr. Wang, and that she had raised the American business community’s concerns about China’s recent actions against Intel and Micron Technology, two semiconductor companies in the United States. The Chinese government has scuttled this summer a large acquisition planned by Intel and has blocked sales in China by Micron.
She said two separate dialogues would be established: One would be a working group that included business representatives and would focus on commercial issues. The other would be a governmental information exchange on export controls.
Ms. Raimondo also said she and the Chinese commerce minister had agreed to meet with each other at least annually.
She said that the new dialogue on technology controls had been set up to share more information about U.S. export restrictions on advanced technology, but said that did not mean that the United States would be compromising on issues of national security. The first meeting of the export control group will take place in Beijing on Tuesday.
Some Republicans have criticized the idea of establishing a working group, calling it “inappropriate” for the Biden administration to discuss national security policy with China.
Ms. Raimondo said she had spoken to nearly 150 business leaders in preparation for her trip and that they had given her a common message: We need more channels of communication.
“A growing Chinese economy that plays by the rules is in all of our interests,” she said.
Michael Hart, the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, also welcomed the bilateral talks. “There hasn’t been enough government-to-government interaction,” he said.
He added that there had been a change in direction from Chinese officials this summer, with an increased willingness to hold discussions.
“It used to be at every meeting I went to, the first five minutes were ‘everything is America’s fault’,” Mr. Hart said. “It’s definitely toned down now, government officials understand the importance of U.S.-China trade.”