Background

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai told the House Ways and Means Committee March 30 that the U.S. needs to broaden the ways it addresses trade issues with China but gave no clear indication what that might look like.

The U.S. “has repeatedly sought and obtained [trade] commitments from China” over many years, including in the Phase One trade agreement, and Tai said that until now the Biden administration has pursued a direct dialogue with Beijing to “test how committed the PRC was to the obligations it signed up to.” However, it has become clear that China “would only comply with those trade obligations that fit its own interests” and that “follow-through or real change remains elusive.”

As a result, Tai said, while the U.S. will “continue to keep the door open to conversations with China,” it also needs to “turn the page on the old playbook with China, which focused on changing its behavior.” Instead, the U.S. needs to expand its strategy to include “vigorously defending our values and economic interests from the negative impacts of the PRC’s unfair economic policies and practices.” USTR made similar comments in its recent annual report on China’s compliance with its World Trade Organization commitments, which said “existing trade tools need to be strengthened and new trade tools need to be forged.”

Tai indicated in her March 30 comments that USTR has been laying the groundwork for such action by working over the past year to “deepen our understanding of how [China’s] policies and practices affect our workers and industries, as well as those of our allies and partners, and global supply chain resiliency.” However, she again declined to provide details as to what specific measures USTR may be contemplating or when they might be announced.

For more information on U.S. trade policy toward China, please contact Nicole Bivens Collinson at (202) 730-4956 or via email.

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