US TRADE REPRESENTATIVE Katherine Tai has outlined the Biden administration’s ‘new’ approach to the US-China trade relationship.
This Bystander is not alone in being left underwhelmed. The US expression for it is all hole and no doughnut.
Tai says the administration will focus on four aspects:
- talk to China about Phase One of the US-China trade deal that former President Donald Trump struck, as it is falling short of its goals, to no one’s surprise;
- take a look at removing tariffs against China that Trump imposed that are hurting US producers and consumers;
- express its concern about China’s industrial policy and market practices under its state capitalism;
- work with the United States’ allies to create fair trade.
Perhaps the best that can be said of that agenda is that it is better than tweeting randomly and contradictorily on trade policy. It also fits a pattern of US President Joe Biden trying to ease the tension in the overall bilateral relationship by carving out small discrete areas well clear of China’s ‘red lines’ (Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan) where the two sides can talk to each other. official to official.
However, we await more substantive detail on even these siloed China trade issues, which was also not forthcoming from Tai during the question and answer session that followed her prepared remarks.
We are also expecting speeches from other members of the administration on trade and national security and trade and the broad geopolitical issues, which Biden will then pull into a more comprehensive trade policy framework.
For now, Biden’s ‘trade policy for the US middle class’ remains a work in progress.
As Tai noted, the foundation for that is the need for the United States to make itself stronger:
President Biden has been clear: the key to our global competitiveness and creating shared prosperity begins at home. We have to make smart domestic investments to increase our own competitiveness. We must invest in research and development and clean energy technology, strengthen our manufacturing base, and incentivize companies to Buy American up and down the supply chain.
Swap ‘Buy Chinese’ for ‘Buy American’ in the third sentence and start the preamble with ‘President Xi has been clear’, and any senior Chinese official could have uttered those words.. Even ‘shared prosperity’ uncannily echoes.