US tariffs on Chinese goods will remain in place for now, but the top US trade official said on Wednesday that she expects to hold talks “in the near future” with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He that could help decide whether to continue the tariffs, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported on Thursday (May 6).
Asked if the Biden administration would lift former President Trump’s tariffs on China in the near term, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said: “A lot will depend on our conversations with China and our assessment of the effectiveness of our trade and economic agreements with China.”
Trump launched a tariff trade war with China in 2018, and the two sides signed the first phase of the agreement in January 2020.
The South China Morning Post reported that Ms. Dai’s comments came as she approached the third anniversary of the trade war between China and the United States, marking a shift in her message. Ms Dai said only five weeks ago that she would meet Mr Liu “when the time is right”.
The Biden administration is conducting a broad review of its trade policy towards China — part of a larger review of the overall US-China relationship — and is examining whether Beijing is complying with the terms of the first phase of the trade agreement signed in January 2020.
Ms Dai noted that she had not yet had any contact with Liu He, vice-premier, or other senior officials, but expected to do so in the near future. She said she was looking forward to meeting formally with Chinese officials to assess their performance, gauge their rhetoric, advance U.S. interests and solidify the path forward.
“I respect the continuity of U.S. policy, especially U.S. trade policy,” she said. “I very much look forward to formally engaging with my Chinese counterparts to assess their performance, listen to their views, advance our interests, and chart a path forward.”
Ms. Dai also made clear on Wednesday that any changes in U.S. trade policy would not come from conversations with Mr. Liu alone.
Many tariffs remain in place even after the first phase of the agreement is reached. In the first phase of the agreement, China pledged to buy more American goods, including those in the agricultural, manufacturing and energy sectors.
But an analysis of trade statistics between the two countries by Chad Bown, an analyst at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, shows that China’s purchases have fallen short of the targets set out in the agreement. In the first three months of 2021, China imported 75 per cent of its year-to-date target and the US 61 per cent, according to data compiled by Bown.
“I think the Trump administration has really brought US-China tensions to the forefront,” she said. The Biden-Harris administration has a responsibility to advance this relationship, and we will not shy away from being tough, but we also know that we have to be fair and we have to look to the future.”
She said she hopes to work with China to tackle climate change, and that global warming requires the cooperation of many economies, which is one of the key policies of the Biden administration.
Citing the possibility of a US push for free trade talks with Taiwan, Ms Dai said any economic and trade engagement between Taiwan and the US would have to be coordinated with other domestic and foreign policy objectives of the Biden administration and stressed that free trade agreements were not the only way to promote trade interactions.