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US will push China to change policy that threatens American jobs, Treasury Secretary Yellen says

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Beijing: The Biden administration will push China to change an industrial policy that poses a threat to US jobs, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Monday after wrapping up four days of talks with Chinese officials.

She also said in Beijing they had “difficult conversations” about national security, including American concerns that Chinese companies are supporting Russia in its war in Ukraine.

But the focus of her trip was industrial policy, and what the US and Europe describe as manufacturing overcapacity in China.

Wealthy nations fear a wave of low-priced Chinese exports that will overwhelm factories at home.

Yellen cited the manufacturing of electric vehicles and their batteries as well as solar energy equipment — sectors that the US administration is trying to promote domestically — as areas where Chinese government subsidies have driven rapid expansion of production.

“China is now simply too large for the rest of the world to absorb this enormous capacity. Actions taken by the PRC today can shift world prices,” she said, using the acronym for China’s official name, the People’s Republic of China.

“And when the global market is flooded by artificially cheap Chinese products, the viability of American and other foreign firms is put into question.”

It’s unclear how China will respond to such calls. European officials have repeatedly raised the issue on visits to China with no sign of any change on the Chinese side.

Moreover, one of leader Xi Jinping’s major goals is to build the nation into a major power so it doesn’t feel compelled to bend to outside pressure.

But overcapacity also affects China — price wars in the electric vehicle sector are expected to drive some makers out of business — and experts have called for better coordination of policies designed to promote new technologies. The government agreed during Yellen’s visit to start talks on what the two sides called “balanced growth”.

“We intend to underscore the need for a shift in policy by China during these talks,” Yellen said at a news conference held outdoors on a balmy spring day at the US ambassador’s residence in Beijing.

On Saturday, the official Xinhua News Agency said that the Chinese side had “responded fully to the issue of production capacity” during Yellen’s talks with Vice Premier He Lifeng, the lead person for China-US economic and trade affairs.

More than a decade ago, the treasury secretary said, a flood of “below-cost Chinese steel … decimated industries across the world and in the United States. I’ve made clear that President Biden and I will not accept that reality again”.

On the war in Ukraine, Yellen warned that any banks that facilitate the sale of military or dual-use goods to Russia could face US sanctions.

“I stressed that companies, including those in the PRC, must not provide material support for Russia’s war and that they will face significant consequences if they do,” she said.

Yellen, the former chair of the US Federal Reserve, met with China’s central bank governor, Pan Gongsheng, earlier Monday. (Agency)

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