Joe Biden, then Vice President, with China’s leader Xi Jinping in 2015 (Carolyn Kaster/AP)
The Biden administration indicates that it is continuing Donald Trump’s trade wars with China.
Senior administration officials told reporters in a Sunday conference call that it will maintain the commitments in a Phase 1 agreement between the Trump Administration and Beijing in January 2020. China is reportedly falling 30% short of a target for US imports in 2021.
US Trade Representative Katherine Tai is expected to begin talking with Chinese counterparts in the near future, according to the Administration officials. They said, “Our objective is not to escalate trade tensions or double down on the previous administration’s flawed strategy. [But] we have to have a strategy that deals with China as it is, rather than as we wish it to be.”
The officials said “all options are on the table” for President Joe Biden, including further tariffs on China.
Tai will say in a Monday speech:
For too long, China’s lack of adherence to global trading norms has undercut the prosperity of Americans and others around the world.
We continue to have serious concerns with China’s state-centered and non-market trade practices that were not addressed in the Phase 1 deal.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo asserted last week that China is blocking its airlines from buying “tens of billions of dollars” of products from the US manufacturer Boeing.
“The Chinese need to play by the rules,” Raimondo said in a radio interview. “We need to hold their feet to the fire and hold them accountable.”
Beijing denies failure to adhere to the Phase 1 agreement, arguing that the Coronavirus pandemic has created unique circumstances.
The Biden officials did say they would re-establish an expired process excluding some companies from tariffs on Chinese products. They said the waivers would be issued based on Administration priorities, without giving any details.
Before entering the White House, Biden had denounced the Trump approach to Beijing, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in July:
Tariffs were not put in place on China in a way that was very thoughtful with respect to where there are problems and what is the US interest.
Tariffs are taxes on consumers. In some cases it seems to me what we did hurt American consumers, and the type of deal that the prior administration negotiated really didn’t address in many ways the fundamental problems we have with China.
Despite the Phase 1 agreement, the US is still imposing tariffs on 66.4% of Chinese goods, and China on 58.3% of US products.
The Trump Administration slapped tariffs on about $350 billion of Chinese-made goods, almost all of Beijing’s exports to the US. To date, American importers have paid more than $106 billion in duties. The average rate of the levy is 19% — more than six times higher than in 2018.