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Yellen, China central bank head hold broad talks at G20 summit


US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen attends the G20 Finance and Health Ministers meeting in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, November 12, 2022. Made Nagi/Pool via REUTERS

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen met China’s central bank Governor Yi Gang on Wednesday for talks on issues ranging from high energy and commodity prices to the macroeconomic outlook in both countries, the U.S. Treasury department said.

The meeting, which lasted two hours, “had a frank, constructive, and positive tone”, said a U.S. Treasury official. “In the context of global challenges, Secretary Yellen and Governor Yi also discussed G20 issues.”

The meeting took place on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, which has been overshadowed by news that a rocket fell on NATO member Poland, killing two people and raising concerns that the Ukraine conflict could spill over its borders. Leaders of G7 and European nations at the summit met over the situation.

Yellen also held her first meeting with Italy’s new economy and finance minister Giancarlo Giorgetti, telling the latter that both countries had a shared interest in supporting Ukraine’s finances and ending Russia’s invasion of its neighbour.

“It remains the single best thing we can do to help the global economy. Both of our countries are committed to holding Russia accountable for its horrific actions – and we must support brave Ukrainians as they defend their homeland and rebuild,” Yellen said.

In the meeting with Yi Gang, first reported by Reuters, Yellen and Treasury officials had said they would seek more clarity on China’s plans to ease its COVID-19 lockdown that have curtailed its growth and restricted its supply chains and how Beijing will deal with problems in its massive property sector.

Yellen’s first in-person conversation with a top Chinese economic official follows U.S. President Joe Biden’s three-hour meeting on Monday with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

While there were blunt discussions over Taiwan and North Korea, human rights and trade policies, the two leaders both stressed the need to get U.S.-China ties back on track, with Biden saying he wanted to “manage this competition responsibly.”

Yellen said on Monday that she hoped the meeting would lead to increased economic engagement between the two superpowers.

Among lingering tensions between Washington and Beijing were tariffs imposed by former President Donald Trump on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese imports annually.

Yellen had argued earlier this year that eliminating tariffs on “non-strategic” consumer goods would cut costs for businesses and consumers amid high inflation, but Biden refrained from taking action to ease the duties after China’s furious military reaction to a visit to Taiwan by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi in August.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai is now conducting a statutory four-year review of whether to keep the tariffs in place.

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