US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said on Wednesday that the United States still faces “very great challenges” in its trade and economic relationship with China that require the attention of the Biden administration at all levels. .
Tai spoke with Reuters in an interview ahead of her first virtual call with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, a meeting in which she raised “matters of concern,” according to her office.
During their frank exchange, Ambassador Tai discussed the guiding principles of worker-centered trade policy of the Biden-Harris administration and its ongoing review of US-China trade relations, while raising issues of concern, ”the USTR said.
China’s Ministry of Commerce described the talks as “a frank, pragmatic and constructive exchange.”
“The two sides regard the development of bilateral trade as very important. (The two sides) exchanged views on matters of mutual interest and agreed to maintain communication.”
The meeting marked the first formal engagement between the trade heads of the world’s two largest economies since US President Joe Biden took office in January.
It came at a time when Biden sharply criticized China over human rights abuses and sought to rally his allies from wealthy Group of Seven nations to form a united front on China.
China’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic – which has now killed more than 3 million people worldwide – has also put a strain on the United States and its allies.
Biden on Wednesday ordered his assistants to investigate rival U.S. intelligence agencies’ theories on the origin of the virus, including the possibility of a laboratory accident in China. China said it supports a “ full investigation ” but warned the United States to avoid politicizing the issue.
The Biden administration is conducting a comprehensive review of U.S.-China trade policy, ahead of the Phase 1 agreement expiring at the end of 2021.
“ ALWAYS THERE ” CHALLENGES
Tai told Reuters that the Phase 1 trade deal was important, but it was only part of a complex relationship.
“The general challenges that we have with China are also still there and they are very important,” Tai said.
Mr. Tai said the Phase 1 trade deal should be seen in the context of “the global trade between the United States and China and the economic relationship which is very, very difficult. And requires our all attention. levels “.
The two countries signed the trade deal in January 2020 – just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It calls on China to increase its purchases of agricultural products, manufactured goods, energy and services from the United States by $ 200 billion in 2020 and 2021, compared to a 2017 benchmark.
The deal facilitated a two-year US-China tariff war led by former President Donald Trump that aimed to change China’s trade practices, though tariffs remain in place on hundreds of billions of trade dollars.
The Biden administration has promised an equally muscular return to China’s state-led economic model, with new investments in innovation to maintain a U.S. technological advantage.
China has fallen by around 40% of its purchasing targets in 2020 and is still lagging behind in its imports in 2021, just seven months away from the two-year deal.
Until 2020, China’s total imports of covered products from the United States stood at $ 99.9 billion, against a commitment of $ 173.1 billion, according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
China has also agreed to lower barriers in its financial services sector and regulate agricultural biotechnology, as well as take steps to protect US intellectual property.
The deal failed to address fundamental U.S. concerns about technology transfer and massive subsidies for state-owned enterprises – issues the Trump administration had announced it would address as part of a trade deal. second phase.
Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.