President Biden Raised Concerns About China’s “Unfair Trade Policies” in Meeting with Xi Jinping, White House Says

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Nov 16 2023 |
China’s Xi Jinping, left, meets with President Biden and other senior administration officials in California on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of the White House

While the hours-long meeting between the leaders of the world’s two major powers mostly focused on other issues, economic ties did come up.

President Biden met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping for hours on Wednesday, with the two pledging to restore military communications between their two countries and agreeing on steps to address the fentanyl crisis.

According to a White House readout of the meeting, the pair also spent time discussing ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine, the need for “peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” and “the risks of advanced A.I. systems.” And while it did not appear to be the main focus of the meeting, ongoing economic relations between the United States and China did come up.

ABC News reported that Xi “criticized what he called U.S. efforts to suppress Chinese development, including through economic restrictions.” That’s been an issue of tension between the two nations, as the United States has imposed export controls on things like semiconductors.

The White House, meanwhile, said in its readout that Biden “emphasized that the United States will continue to take necessary actions to prevent advanced U.S. technologies from being used to undermine our own national security, without unduly limiting trade and investment.” The president also “also raised continued concerns about the PRC’s unfair trade policies, non-market economic practices, and punitive actions against U.S. firms, which harm American workers and families.”   

And in his press conference following the meeting, Biden “made clear that the U.S. disagrees with China’s ‘nonmarket’ economic practices and that his administration will continue to address with them,” the New York Times reported.

It was not expected that the U.S. and China would announce any major agreements after the meeting, and the White House spent weeks downplaying expectations between the two leaders. Still, there’s going to be a whole lot of reading between the lines over what the two nations said in their individual readouts of the gathering.

The meeting between Biden and Xi wasn’t the only noteworthy gathering involving U.S.-China economic relations. Xi also attended an exclusive dinner on Wednesday night with a guest list that was expected to include top corporate executives like Tesla’s Elon Musk, whose company maintains a massive presence in China.

There no doubt are plenty of corporate executives who would like to see the U.S. return to the previous status quo of unfettered trade, including by lifting tariffs and easing export controls. But reverting to old habits would be bad policy, as our President Scott Paul argued in The Mercury News on Wednesday.

“The interests of American workers, consumers and security aren’t served by offering China’s leadership an open hand when it comes to trade,” Paul wrote.

“Biden is taking a holistic approach to a complex problem. The result has been nearly a million manufacturing jobs created during his term, and billions of private investment around the pillars of a realistic industrial policy that will make the American economy more resilient in the coming decades,” he later continued. “I hope the president will remember this, all accomplished since Washington adopted a tougher line on Chinese trade.”