SAN FRANCISCO -- U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng started two days of bilateral meetings in San Francisco on Thursday.
The Treasury Department says the meetings, ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, are designed to further stabilize the economic relationship with China and make progress on some key issues. Those include trade, investment and developing more resilient supply chains.
"When we have concerns about specific economic practices, such as those that prevent American firms and workers from competing on a level playing field, we will communicate them directly," Treasury Secretary Yellen told Vice Premier He Thursday.
She also said that the U.S. has no desire to decouple from China, saying a full separation of our economies would be economically disastrous for both countries and the world. But a group protested the meeting and upcoming APEC Thursday in San Francisco.
This isn't the first time Yellen and He have met in person. They were last together in China in July.
"What we're here to do is, we're demanding that world leaders in these negotiations that are happening right now take climate change seriously," said Bay Climate Action Coordinator Will Wiltschko. "They need to have things in place for building an economy that produces more green jobs and includes a just transition away from fossil fuels, and so that that is tied very closely with the economic system."
Cal State East Bay Professor Nancy Park, Ph. D., who is an expert in Chinese history, said the two leaders will likely discuss the issue of trade barriers, among other topics during their two days of meetings.
"One of the main ones is going to be the issue of trade barriers because both sides are frustrated with what they perceive to be barriers of free trade," Park said. "On the U.S. side, a lot of American companies are frustrated by what they perceive to be Chinese control of their companies or policies that put their companies at a disadvantage. And from the Chinese side, many Chinese are frustrated by what they consider to be controls -- U.S. controls on the export of technologies."
Park says more open lines of communication are needed to prevent more serious conflicts.
"I hope that this is going to be the start of a greater de-escalation of tensions," Park said. "The United States-China relationship is the worst it's been in my professional lifetime, and the United States and China both benefit from more open lines of communication to prevent the two countries from spiraling into more serious conflicts. And then, on the positive side, both countries benefit when they can cooperate and coordinate together to address complex global issues."
Yellen told the Vice Premier she spent much of her life in the Bay Area and considers it her second home. She said it's a place where the U.S.'s ties to Asia are apparent, such as San Francisco's Chinatown.
Yellen said she looks forward to discussing topics, such as collaboration on global challenges, from climate change to debt distress in low-income countries and emerging markets.
Several protests are planned around the summit and activists said thousands of people are expected at a large march protesting APEC on Sunday, starting at noon at the Embarcadero across from the ferry building. They said more than 200 groups will participate.
Secretary Yellen's meetings with Vice Premier He will be held before Yellen hosts the APEC Finance Ministers Meeting in San Francisco.
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