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New U.S. China trade plan leaves industry hungry for specifics By Reuters


© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: Katherine Tai (U.S. Trade Representative) testifies before Congress’s Finance Committee in Washington on May 12, 2021. Pete Marovich/Pool via REUTERS

Andrea Shalal, David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters). Despite having waited for eight months to hear from Katherine Tai, U.S. Trade Representative, about her promised policy review on trade with China “top-to–bottom”, experts and some industries in the U.S. were disappointed by the lack of detail or timing.

Tai, President Joe Biden’s top trade official, revealed her plans Monday. She promised to talk with Chinese officials about their inability to comply with the terms of President Donald Trump’s Phase 1 trade agreement and to restart a process that would allow exclusions to tariffs on Chinese imports.

Mary Lovely of Syracuse University was a trade economist and attended Tai’s Washington speech. But her entire plan appears to be “I’m planning to have a discussion.”

As she begins discussions with Liu He, the Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, Tai is expected to remove most of Trump’s controversial tariffs that have been placed on Chinese goods worth hundreds of billions. Although she raised concerns from the U.S. about China’s subsidy industrial production, she did not discuss specific measures to address Beijing’s anti-free trade policies.

Tai said that what will happen next depends on how things go. He was the House Ways and Means Committee’s former top trade lawyer and has promised to focus the Biden trade policies on workers.

This was not an idle criticism by her of Beijing. She accused the Communist Party government in China of continuing to “shape the economy of China to the will the state, hurting workers in America and elsewhere.”

Tai gave the speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think-tank. It was well received by Democratic lawmakers and unions.

Stephen Vaughn is a former USTR top official who was involved in the initial “Section 301”, investigation which led to U.S. duties on Chinese products.


But, those industries who have been subject to U.S. import tariffs on Chinese goods for over three years that have cost billions of dollar, are hoping for information on how they might be able to get tariff relief.

Instead, the Monday speech raised fears that Tai might launch additional tariff actions. However, she stated in her speech that Tai will continue “Section 301” investigations.

According to the US-China Business Council, tariffs could become permanent due to lack of a clear path. National Foreign Trade Council urged for a vigorous tariff exclusion procedure to help companies that have been hounded by the U.S. China Trade War.

“Today’s long-awaited announcement proved the Biden administration’s trade strategy on China to be lackluster at most, and will further inflict unnecessary damage to the American economy and retail supply chains,” said David French, senior vice president of the National Retail Federation.

Tai stated that she will not participate in Trump’s formal Phase 2 negotiations with Beijing on structural issues, such as China’s huge subsidies for state enterprises. She also cited a “disinclination to use Trump’s labels.”

Tai stated that how those talks unfold will depend in part on “how much momentum we get with China” and the degree to which we take our own steps to protect our interests.

For more than a decade, the United States engaged in high-level dialogues economic with China. These talks produced no change in Beijing’s policies. While the Trump administration’s Phase One Deal was celebrated as a significant breakthrough, Beijing still has not fulfilled its obligations to purchase U.S.-made goods.

Derek Scissors from the American Enterprise Institute said Tai’s speech didn’t “given us new goals, nor new tools.”

Scissors explained, “You state that trade must be worker-centric, but America can’t accept the Chinese being like this because it hurts America.” Scissors said, “When was that ever successful?”