Top U.S. trade negotiator Katherine Tai on Monday pledged to exclude some Chinese imports from tariffs imposed by former President Donald Trump while pressing Beijing in "frank" talks over its failure to keep promises made in Trump's trade deal and end harmful industrial policies.
Tai said the United States would keep all options open as it continues to push China to stop pouring billions of dollars of state subsidies into its semiconductor, steel and other industries that Washington says harm U.S. companies.
Unveiling the results of a months-long "top-to-bottom" review of China trade policy, Tai said she will seek a meeting with Chinese vice premier Liu He in coming days to review China's failure to comply with the "Phase 1" trade deal launched in February 2020, including a shortfall of promised U.S. goods purchases.
"Above all else, we must defend – to the hilt – our economic interests," Tai told an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank. "That means taking all steps necessary to protect ourselves against the waves of damage inflicted over the years through unfair competition."
Washington was "prepared to deploy all tools and explore the development of new ones, including through collaboration with other economies and countries" as it charted a new course to change the trajectory of the U.S.-China trade dynamic, she said.
Tai's remarks were broadly welcomed by U.S. trade groups, although they criticized the lack of a clear road map for ending tariffs on U.S. goods that have hit U.S. companies and consumers, and expanding trade opportunities for U.S. companies.
"Our worry is that these tariffs will remain in place permanently and it will have a negative effect on the U.S. economy," said Doug Barry, spokesman for the U.S.-China Business Council, which speaks for 200 firms doing business in China.
Tai also said she would revive a "targeted" process of approving exclusions for certain Chinese imports from punitive U.S. tariffs, offering a measure of relief to U.S. industry, with additional exclusion processes possible in the future. Most previous tariff exclusions had expired at the end of 2020.
However, she did not rule out starting fresh investigations under the Section 301 trade law, which could result in new tariffs, saying that would depend on China's actions.
"We have a lot of work to do," Tai said.
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