US new report indicates hard line on China on trade
‘Bilateral talks need to be based on multilateralism’
Published: Apr 01, 2021 11:50 PM

China-US Photo: GT

China-US Photo: GT

An annual US government trade report, which lists "significant barriers" that could pose challenges to the US growth opportunities, has accused China on a large number of issues and vowed to "correct these harmful trade practices" in the future.

The report, which also acknowledged the China-US first phase trade deal - a Trump-era agreement - indicates that the Biden administration may take a hardline stance on trade with Beijing as the previous Trump administration did, a stance which Biden had been firmly opposed to before taking office, Chinese analysts said. 

This 570-page long report from the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) discusses the largest export markets for the US, covering more than 60 countries and regions. Among which China's section occupies a large proportion totaling 36 pages, second only to the chapter on the European Union.

"China's state-led approach to the economy and trade makes it the world's leading offender in creating non-economic capacity, as evidenced by the severe and persistent excess capacity situations in several industries, including steel, aluminum, and solar, among others," USTR said in a statement on its official website on Wednesday. 

"USTR will continue its bilateral and multilateral efforts to address these harmful trade practices," the statement said.

The USTR report, along with the Biden administration's recent China statement, indicates that the new administration will take the "confrontation first, cooperation second" strategy with China, not only in politics but also trade, He Weiwen, a former senior Chinese trade official, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Those who are still hoping that Biden's trade policies will be different and wiser than that of the former President, should drop their illusion, He said.

The report also blamed China on a wide range of trade issues including Intellectual Property Rights, industrial policies and "indigenous innovation" among others, saying it will continue to "urge China" to make improvements.

"Any accusations without solid evidence, or based on US' unilateral approach and its own rule will not be accepted by China, and the US should not expect to use these accusations as bargaining chips in its future talks with China," Gao Lingyun, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing who closely follows China-US trade relations, told the Global Times on Thursday.

China will only accept talks based on rules from the World Trade Organization under multilateral framework, Gao said.

The USTR also commented on the China-US phase one agreement signed during the Trump era, saying the deal "establishes a strong dispute resolution system that ensures prompt and effective implementation and enforcement," adding that since the entry into force of the deal in February 2020, the US continues to engage China as issues arise and will continue to monitor developments closely.

Gao said that Biden should insist on what he has advocated before - to make corrections on the disruptive tariffs imposed by the administration of former President Donald Trump - instead of being inconsistent in his words and deeds and ending up taking the same path as the previous administration.

Biden's new trade negotiator, the US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, has said that the US is not yet ready to lift tariffs on Chinese imports, though she acknowledged that the levies were hitting some American companies and consumers, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal on Monday.

"But no matter what the US does, we will continue to move forward along our established policies and directions, but we are also open to talks as always," Gao said.

China always opposes unilaterally imposing tariffs, which is not beneficial to China, US and the world, Gao Feng, spokesperson of China's Ministry of Commerce, said during a regular press conference in Beijing on Thursday. He added that China and the US should negotiate to deal with their concerns based on mutual respect and fair treatment.

Over the past year, US goods exports to China totaled $124.6 billion in 2020, up 17.1 percent ($18.2 billion) from the previous year. Corresponding US imports from China were $435.4 billion, down 3.6 percent. China was the US' third largest goods export market in 2020, according to the report.

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