WASHINGTON: Having waited eight months for US Trade Representative Katherine Tai’s promised “top-to-bottom” policy review of trade with China, some US industries and experts were complaining over the plan’s lack of specifics on negotiations or timing.
Unveiling her plan on Monday, Tai, President Joe Biden’s top trade official, pledged to hold talks with Chinese officials over their failure to meet the terms of former President Donald Trump’s “Phase One” trade deal, and to revive a process to grant exclusions from tariffs on Chinese imports, report agencies.
Tai will leave in place most of Trump’s controversial tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese goods as she launches discussions with her counterpart, Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He.
She will raise US concerns about China’s industrial subsidies, but did not outline specific plans to tackle Beijing’s policies that the US believes undermine free trade.
What happens next “depends on how the conversation goes”, said Tai, the former top trade lawyer on the House Ways and Means Committee, who has promised to centre the Biden trade policy around workers.
She was unsparing in her criticism of Beijing on this front, accusing China’s Communist Party government of continuing to “shape its economy to the will of the state, hurting the interests of workers here in the US and around the world”.
Tai’s speech, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, won support from Democratic lawmakers, unions as well as a former Trump administration trade official.
However, industries that have suffered through more than three years worth of US tariffs on Chinese imports that cost billions of dollars, were hoping for details on which products might win tariff relief.
Instead, Monday’s speech left lingering concerns that Tai could launch new tariff actions after saying she will keep further “Section 301” investigations as options.
The US-China Business Council said it feared tariffs might become permanent, given the lack of any clear road map. The National Foreign Trade Council called for a “robust” tariff exclusion process to provide some relief for companies hammered by the US-China trade war.