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HomeIndustriesLatest Trade Policy Agenda from USTR Promises a Tough Line on China

Latest Trade Policy Agenda from USTR Promises a Tough Line on China


U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai testifies before the U.S. Congress in 2022. | file photo

No surprises here, as election season heats up.

Last week the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) – a cabinet-level position held by the chief U.S. trade negotiator, Katherine Tai – released the 2024 Trade Policy Agenda and 2023 Annual Report, which reviews the results of the Biden administration’s trade policy last year and previews it for the last year of its term, respectively.

The document begins with two pages defining acronyms and four pages for the table of contents before launching into another 360 pages of detail; not exactly light reading to pair with your morning coffee. It’s also nothing new, which is is likely why you haven’t heard about this document before now. It reiterates the administration’s pledge to “advance a  worker-centered trade policy,” and, of course, to stay tough on China.

The South China Morning Post, a newspaper published in Hong Kong whose website is blocked in mainland China, described it as a pledge “to double down with a strategy of realignment on trade with China, a sign that tension between the world’s two largest economies shows no signs of abating.” But even after President Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping made relatively nice on the sidelines of a summit in San Francisco late last year, there was never much doubt that was the case. The Biden administration has maintained nearly all the hundreds of billions of dollars on Chinese tariffs raised by the Trump administration that preceded it and has in important ways gone father. Its export ban on semiconductor manufacturing technology, for instance, was seen as a major step to limit China’s economic growth. It signed a bill that bans the import of any good from China that was produced in or contains inputs from Xinjiang, where the state forces ethnic minorities into labor camps. And it has pushed for and enacted major pieces of industrial policy, the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act, both of which are investments meant to bolster American industries against Chinese import competition. Again, none of that is news.

It is worth noting though, as the Morning Post points out, “the report comes as Biden prepares for an electoral rematch with (Donald) Trump, who has promised tariffs of 60 per cent or more on Chinese imports and a flat 10 per cent on all other foreign goods if he is re-elected in November.”

I’m looking forward to a measured and healthy political debate regarding the U.S.-China bilateral trade relationship this election season! You can find the entire document from USTR here.


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