US to move against ‘waves of damage’ caused by China’s trade

Washington: The Biden administration will start removing some Trump-era tariffs on Chinese imports while vowing to maintain a tough, “America First”-style approach to trade relations with its leading economic rival.

Biden’s top trade adviser, United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai, outlined the most detailed view of the White House’s approach to trade with China in a speech in Washington on Tuesday (AEDT).

US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said it was clear China did not plan to introduce meaningful reforms to address concerns about its economy. Credit:AP

“For too long, China’s lack of adherence to global trading norms has undercut the prosperity of Americans and others around the world,” Tai said in a speech to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

“In recent years, Beijing has doubled down on its state-centred economic system.

“It is increasingly clear that China’s plans do not include meaningful reforms to address the concerns that have been shared by the United States and many other countries.”

Tai insisted that, rather than promote high-minded notions of global free trade, the US “must defend – to the hilt – our economic interests” above all else.

Trade tensions: US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi.

“That means taking all steps necessary to protect ourselves against the waves of damage inflicted over the years through unfair competition,” she said.

Tai said she planned to have “frank conversations” with her counterpart in China in coming days to discuss China’s performance in the phase one trade agreement struck between former president Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping last year.

The deal required China to significantly increase its purchases of American goods such as soybeans, corn, wheat and beef.

“China made commitments that benefit certain American industries, including agriculture, that we must enforce,” Tai said.

Rising giant: Automated vehicles move shipping containers at a port in China’s Shandong Province.Credit:AP

An analysis of the deal showed that while China has met certain commitments under the deal, “there have been shortfalls in others”.

Tai announced that the administration will “start a targeted tariff exclusion process” to determine which tariffs on Chinese goods are not operating in the best interests of the US economy.

But she said the US has deep concerns about unfair trade practices in China, and planned to rally like-minded countries such as Australia to push for improvements.

“We need to be prepared to deploy all tools and explore the development of new ones, including through collaboration with other economies and countries,” she said.

Tai said China’s dominance in the global production of steel, photovoltaic solar cells and semiconductors had cost American jobs and led factories to close their doors.

“Those policies have reinforced a zero-sum dynamic in the world economy where China’s growth and prosperity come at the expense of workers and economic opportunity here in the US and other market-based, democratic economies,” she said.

“That is why we need to take a new, holistic, and pragmatic approach in our relationship with China that can actually further our strategic and economic objectives – for the near term and the long term.”

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