U.S. Commerce Chief: Biden will use Trump-era tariffs to take on China

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Tai’s office later announced that she would deliver a speech Monday on the administration’s approach to trade with China at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

His office has been leading a “top-down” review of US trade policy toward China since its confirmation in March. She said in the interview that the review would be over “very soon” but would not say when.

The administration spent its first eight months rallying key trading partners – including the European Union, Australia and Japan – to unite to address Beijing’s economic behavior.

Tai was here in Pittsburgh this week to seek to unite with EU officials to tackle pressing business and technology issues, including market-distorting behaviors that the United States has long accused Beijing of perpetuating. , such as forced technology transfer and industrial subsidies.

Although the joint US-EU post-summit statement never mentions China by name, it is clearly the primary target.

“The relationship with the EU is extremely important in this regard, and I think there is every reason for us, due to our common interests, to build on the relationship between us,” Tai said. “For himself, because he is inherently precious, but also to build on this relationship on a collaborative basis to meet the challenges that we both experience.”

The Phase 1 trade deal signed by former President Donald Trump will expire at the end of the year, and data shows China is failing to meet its pledge to buy an additional $ 200 billion in U.S. goods. The Biden administration will have to decide how to close the deficit with Beijing and whether to negotiate a follow-up deal.

Tai did not want to say if there were any imminent plans for a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Vice Premier Liu He. The pair are supposed to meet every six months under the terms of the Phase 1 deal, but nothing has been scheduled since Tai’s confirmation in March.

So far, the Biden administration has also resisted pressure from U.S. companies to lift tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese goods. The Trump administration imposed these duties and then excluded some products, but those exclusions expired at the end of last year and Biden has not decided to renew most of them.

These Section 301 tariffs, which Trump imposed on the basis of a rarely used 1974 trade law, “had the effect of attracting the attention of a lot of people,” Tai said. This includes American companies, their workers, their trading partners and, of course, China, she said.

“In that sense, I would say that the 301 tariffs are a tool to create the kind of effective policies, and [are] something that we can build on and use to defend the interests of the American economy, American workers and American businesses and our farmers through to the end, ”she said.

She also took issue with the idea that tariffs are ultimately paid by U.S. consumers, saying it’s a more complicated calculation than many suggest.

“The interests of our economy and the way our stakeholders are distributed in our economy are very complex, and you must bring an appreciation of that complexity to something as important as navigating the US-China trade and economic relationship. “she said.

The former US trade representatives had to rise to the challenge of China, and now it must find new approaches where they failed. She said she remains open to new ways to pressure China to reform its practices.

“There are a lot of lessons we can take,” she said. “I think we always had our intentions in the right place in terms of commitment on the one hand, execution on the other. But over time we have to assess how effective we have been. “

Ultimately, the way forward will be more effective if the United States brings in other democratic allies. She said the Biden administration had focused on “fixing” the transatlantic relationship, although it was strained last week after a dispute with France.

Part of strengthening those ties was the inaugural US-EU Trade and Technology Council meeting in Pittsburgh this week. As one of the board’s five co-chairs, Tai said she “couldn’t be more pleased” with the progress the two sides have made in aligning their policies since the group’s announcement in June.

“The relationships between governments are both abstract, but they are also about the relationships of the people who make up those governments,” Tai said. “We will continue to build, and when challenges arise, you have to be able to overcome them, to talk about them. This is what makes the relationship stronger.


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