China names new chief trade negotiator before Biden takes office

FILE PHOTO: A Chinese national flag flutters near the building of China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) at the Financial Street area in Beijing, China July 16, 2020. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/File Photo

CHINA has appointed a veteran of trade talks as the Ministry of Commerce’s top negotiator, filling a ministerial-level position that was vacant for two years, as the country prepares for the incoming Biden administration.

Vice Minister of Commerce Yu Jianhua, 60, was named as the representative for international trade negotiations, the ministry said in a one-line statement Wednesday evening.

The position had been open since Fu Ziying left the role in late 2018, according to local media reports.

The announcement comes days before the one-year anniversary of the "phase one” trade deal with the U.S., as well as the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

Biden said last month he wouldn’t make any immediate changes to that deal, but plans to work with allies to develop a more coherent strategy against China.

He’s one of China’s most experienced trade negotiators and has been ambassador to the World Trade Organization and the United Nations in Geneva.

He was first named as a deputy representative for trade negotiations at the ministry in 2013. In that capacity he held talks with American counterparts in September 2017 to protest the U.S. starting the "Section 301” probe against China that became the basis for many of the U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.

Later that year Yu moved to Geneva as Beijing’s representative to various UN agencies.

He defended China’s policies in Xinjiang, telling a UN panel that the claims of torture, arbitrary detention and disappearances of Uighur Muslims were "against the fact.”

In April 2019 Yu was called back to China to resume his work at the commerce ministry, just before trade talks between China and the U.S. broke down, according to a New York Times report.

Yu will work along with China’s new commerce minister, Wang Wentao, and deputy trade talks representative Wang Shouwen. - Bloomberg

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