The Biden administration’s top trade official said the U.S. plans to start new talks with China, saying that Beijing isn’t meeting its commitments under the “phase one” trade deal negotiated by former President Donald Trump.
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said a monthslong review found that Washington needs “a new strategy” to confront what she called Beijing’s predatory trade practices.
She also said the administration will reopen a process for U.S. companies to seek exemptions from tariffs on Chinese goods that those firms use, after originally allowing that waiver process to expire.
In a speech at the Center for Strategic International Studies, Ms. Tai outlined China’s unfair trade policies in the production of steel, solar cells, agriculture and semiconductors.
“Those policies have reinforced a zero-sum dynamic in the world economy where China’s growth and prosperity come at the expense of workers and economic opportunity here in the U.S. and other market-based, democratic economies,” Ms. Tai said in her first extensive comment on trade relations with Beijing.
“That is why we need to take a new, holistic, and pragmatic approach in our relationship with China that can actually further our strategic and economic objectives — for the near term and the long term,” she said.
The Trump administration had imposed levies on about $370 billion in Chinese imports, from consumer goods to factory parts. Biden officials said they will keep the tariffs in place, and will consider additional levees, to compel China to live up to the terms of the 2020 trade deal.
Ms. Tai said additional tariffs would depend on China’s response to outreach by the U.S.
“We will look at all available tools,” she said.
China had agreed in the deal with Mr. Trump to purchase an extra $200 billion worth of U.S. goods in 2020 and 2021. But Biden officials say China is falling far short of those targets.
A senior official said Mr. Biden‘s strategy “is not to escalate trade tensions with China or double down on the previous administration’s flawed strategy.”
The decision to reengage in trade talks with China follows President Biden’s phone call last month with Chinese President Xi Jinping that was aimed at keeping lines of communication open amid rising tensions.
The Biden administration has sanctioned Chinese officials over the repression of Muslim Uyghurs and expanding a Trump-era ban on Americans investing in Chinese companies with suspected ties to China’s military.
Ms. Tai said Mr. Biden “believes we need to manage the competition responsibly — and ensure that is fair.”
“For too long, China’s lack of adherence to global trading norms has undercut the prosperity of Americans and others around the world,” she said. “In recent years, Beijing has doubled down on its state-centered economic system. It is increasingly clear that China’s plans do not include meaningful reforms to address the concerns that have been shared by the United States and many other countries.”
She added, “we have a lot of work to do.”