US signals no thaw in trade relations with China

The White House will continue trying to counter China's economic threats with trade barriers and other punitive measures. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - The Biden administration offered its strongest signal yet that the United States' combative economic approach toward China would continue, with senior administration officials saying that President Joe Biden would not immediately lift tariffs on Chinese goods and that he would hold Beijing accountable for trade commitments agreed to during the Trump administration.

Comments made on Monday (Oct 4) by Katherine Tai, the US trade representative, and other officials provided one of the first looks at how the Biden administration plans to deal with a rising economic and security threat from China.

They indicated that while Biden may have criticised the Trump administration's aggressive approach, his White House will continue trying to counter China's economic threats with trade barriers and other punitive measures.

That includes requiring China to uphold commitments it agreed to as part of the initial trade deal that it signed with the United States in January 2020, as well as pressing China on the issue of subsidies it offers to give its industries a competitive edge.

So far, China is on a pace to fall short of its 2021 purchasing commitments by more than 30 per cent, after falling short by more than 40 per cent last year, according to Chad P. Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, who tracks the purchases.

China denies that it has failed to live up to the trade agreement, contending that the pandemic has created unique circumstances.

In a speech Monday at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, Tai highlighted how some of Beijing's unfair practices have affected US workers and said the United States would continue working with allies to counter them.

"We will use the full range of tools we have and develop new tools as needed to defend American economic interests from harmful policies and practices," she said.

Tai said she would begin talking with her Chinese counterparts in the coming days about the country's failure to live up to its agreements. In a call with reporters on Sunday, senior administration officials did not rule out the possibility of imposing further tariffs on China if the talks did not produce the desired results.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.