US tariffs on China are working, says Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross

US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said the US would have preferred not to implement tariffs against Chinese goods but added that it has forced China into action.
US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said the US would have preferred not to implement tariffs against Chinese goods but added that it has forced China into action.PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Tariffs are forcing China to pay attention to US concerns,   US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said on Thursday (Oct 10).

Mr Ross said the United States would have preferred not to implement tariffs against Chinese goods more than a year ago, which ignited a trade war that slowed global commerce and threatened decades-old systems, but added that it has forced Beijing into action.

The trade war has weighed on global growth and roiled financial markets.

"We do not love tariffs, in fact we would prefer not to use them, but after years of discussions and no action, tariffs are finally forcing China to pay attention to our concerns," Mr Ross told a business function held by the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia.

"We could have had a deal two-and-a-half years ago without going through the whole tit-for-tat on tariffs that we have."

Mr Ross is on an official visit to Australia.

Top US and Chinese trade and economic officials will meet in Washington on Thursday and Friday to try to end a 15-month-old trade war.

Without significant breakthrough, Mr Trump is set to hike the tariff rate on US$250 billion (S$345 billion) worth of Chinese goods to 30 per cent from 25 per cent next Tuesday.

Negotiators made no progress in deputy-level trade talks held on Monday and Tuesday in Washington, the South China Morning Post said, citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the meetings.

The two sides have been at loggerheads over US demands that China improve protections of American intellectual property, end cyber theft and the forced transfer of technology to Chinese firms, curb industrial subsidies and increase US companies’ access to largely closed Chinese markets.

Mr Ross said the most difficult problem to solve in trade negotiations with China was making sure that the terms of an agreement would be adhered to.

"Trade agreements historically have been very weak on enforcement," Mr Ross said. "Given the magnitude and the complexity of the changes we need, enforcement becomes an extremely critical component of any agreement that we make."