In the rosary of economic, legislative and political fronts opened this fall of the truth before Joe Biden, the tariff relationship with China will continue for a good season on the list of pending issues. That was deduced this Monday from the intervention of the highest representative of United States foreign trade, Katherine Tai, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), one of the think tanks that populate Washington. She was cited to detail how she plans to make China comply with the commitments of the last agreement signed by the previous president, Donald Trump, which ended a succession of economic reprisals by both parties and that the current president assumed at the beginning of his term until reviewing the entire relationship with China. Far from turning US policy on the matter, Tai opted to deepen the pact inherited from the Trump Administration, despite the obvious breaches, and urged the Asian power to comply with those agreements, although without ” exacerbate trade tensions ”.
“We will examine the level of fulfillment of the commitments with China,” Tai said in his first major speech on the subject since he accepted the position. “Afterward, we will have frank conversations with them to see how we can move forward with those accomplishments. We will also use bilateral and multilateral relations and joint work with our allies to exert pressure, “the US trade representative stressed. Ultimately, if necessary, they will not hesitate” to take firm action. During question time, he did not want to specify which pressure instruments he was referring to. “For too long, China’s lack of commitment to global trade rules has affected the prosperity of American and other workers,” he added. “It is increasingly clear that they are not planning far-reaching reforms to help tackle these problems.”
Biden is thus committed to enforcing phase 1 of the trade agreement signed by Trump in January 2020, although without paying in the “most important and crucial economic relationship on the planet” the rhetoric of the threat to the first of change, a strategy so beloved by its predecessor. In that agreement, China pledged to increase its purchases of US products by $ 200 billion (about 172 billion euros) between 2020 and 2021. According to Chad P. Bown, an expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economy, Beijing barely it had reached 69% of the committed targets as of last August.
During her speech, Katherine Tai linked the position of strength in future negotiations with China to the resolution of the main problem that Biden has right now at home: getting the multimillion-dollar economic recovery plans to go ahead, star recipes of his mandate to leave behind the long pandemic tunnel and incidentally reactivate a country exhausted and increasingly lacking in confidence. Especially important for the negotiating table with China is the so-called Infrastructure Plan, a package of measures for 1.2 trillion dollars called to improve roads, ports, railway lines and internet connections throughout the country. That plan, which has the support of both parties, was put on hold in the Senate late last week despite the president’s personal involvement. This paralysis is explained by the internal struggles in the Democratic ranks between the progressive and conservative wings, which make their support for the reduction in the ambition of the other Biden plan, which aims at a social spending of 3.5 billion dollars. “China has been investing in infrastructure for decades, to the detriment of our workers, and we have not,” argued Tai. “It is time that we get seriously at it, on the same level or even higher.”
The stakes of the recent foreign policy of the United States – certainly erratic in these first months marked by the crisis in Afghanistan – are also aimed at strengthening the position in relation to China. Tai cited two cases: on the one hand, the Aukus alliance, a strategic security commitment signed this month by the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia to defend common interests in the Indo-Pacific area and curb the desire for expansion of the influence of Beijing and, on the other, the creation last Thursday of the Trade and Technology Council, which seeks to strengthen cooperation with the European Union to curb growing Chinese competition in these matters.
In her speech, the representative of US Foreign Trade gave some examples of how the Asian opponent has been gaining positions in matters such as the steel industry, solar energy or the semiconductor sector thanks to the support of the State, in the middle of a crisis that threatens the recovery of Western economies.
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Although Biden has spoken out against Beijing’s policy on issues such as the repression of the opposition in Taiwan, he has not been as eloquent on trade issues, which has drawn criticism at home. The US president spoke with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in September for the first time since February.
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