The US has promised a new approach to trade relations with China, saying it will take “all steps necessary” to protect US interests “to the hilt”.
Trade Representative Katherine Tai said she will seek new talks with Beijing over the country’s failure to keep promises made in the first phase of a trade agreement reached with Donald Trump.
She also did not rule out the possibility of imposing additional trade tariffs.
Nonetheless, the US will abandon a plan to force China to reform its “non-market economy.”
Ms Tai, on the other hand, stated that America must become more competitive in the face of China’s growing economic might.
“For far too long, China’s disregard for global trading norms has undermined the prosperity of Americans and others around the world,” she said at a press conference in Washington.
“We must vigorously defend our economic interests… That entails taking all necessary precautions to protect ourselves from the waves of damage inflicted over time by unfair competition.”
Since 2017, the United States and China have imposed tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s goods after Washington accused Beijing of obstructing market access and stealing American intellectual property.
Donald Trump struck a Phase 1 agreement in which China promised to increase its purchases of US agricultural and other goods in order to rebalance the relationship.
However, Ms Tai, who was appointed by President Joe Biden in April, stated that the Chinese government continues to “pour billions of dollars” into subsidising industries such as agriculture, steel, and semi-conductors, making it impossible for the United States to compete.
She promised to re-open talks with Beijing in the coming days and to “enforce” its commitments.
She also refused to rule out the use of additional trade tariffs, saying that “all available tools” would be used to protect the American economy.
‘Position of strength’
Ms Tai, on the other hand, stated that she would re-start a process that would allow US industries to apply for exemptions from trade tariffs on Chinese imports, which are paid by American companies. These, she claimed, had occasionally harmed US economic interests.
She also said she would abandon Donald Trump’s Phase 2 deal, which sought deeper reforms to China’s state-backed economy but has yet to enter into force, because it was unlikely to succeed.
Instead, she said the US needed to work with allies through “bilateral and multilateral channels” to bring Beijing into line, while also investing more in its own competitiveness.
“As our economic relationship with China evolves, so must our tactics to defend our interests,” she said.
“Unlike in the past, this administration will engage from a position of strength because we are investing in our workers and infrastructure.”
“And we must harness and leverage our people’s talent by investing in education and worker training.”