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Washington waging long-term trade attack: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-05-29 20:11

Were it not for US Deputy Trade Representative Sarah Bianchi's interview with Reuters after the "Indo-Pacific" Economic Framework for Prosperity talks wrapped up in Detroit, Michigan, on Saturday, the statutory four-year review of the previous Donald Trump administration's initial tariff actions and their subsequent modifications by the Joe Biden administration might have passed under the public radar.

That to some extent shows that the US society, including the parties suffering from the tariffs, have given up hope of any suspension of the tariffs, particularly as the inflation in the United States that prompted the Biden administration to consider adjusting the tariffs last year has now eased.

Bianchi's remarks on the Office of the US Trade Representative's review of whether to keep the tariffs on Chinese goods in place reinforced that judgment. "We are conducting the review from an analytical perspective. We're not base-casing any breakthrough in the trade relationship. We're not assuming that that will happen."

Moreover, the deputy trade representative, who oversees trade engagement with Asia, added that the USTR is continuing to study industry and stakeholder comments on the duties and consulting with the US Commerce Department, the Treasury and other agencies to determine which categories make strategic sense, hinting that more imports from China might be added to the tariffs.

The tariffs on thousands of imports from China, valued at around $370 billion at the time, were imposed by the Trump administration in 2018 and 2019 as a bargaining chip for its trade talks with Beijing.

After passing the inflation pressure test — with much of the cost of the tariffs having been passed on to US consumers and businesses — and with no intention of mending ties with Beijing, the Biden administration sees no reason not to keep the tariffs in place. With its blacklist sanctions precisely targeting China's high-tech sectors, the tariffs are being used to hurt China's lower-end manufacturing industries.

Bianchi's remarks came just two days after Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao raised objections against the tariffs as an issue of concern during a meeting with US Trade Representative Katherine Tai in Detroit on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation trade meeting on Thursday, the first Cabinet-level exchanges between Washington and Beijing in months.

Considering that the duties are viewed by the Biden administration as "significant leverage" over China and that Congress has delegated much of its tariff authority to the president, so as to avoid censure by a few vocal industries, the so-called importance and necessity of maintaining such "conversations" between the two sides highlighted by Bianchi in her interview is questionable for Beijing.

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