US urged to dump Trump tariffs on China, take substantive moves to maintain stabilizing ties
Sincerity, substantive moves from US key to maintaining stabilizing momentum
Published: Sep 06, 2023 10:21 PM
China US Photo:VCG

China US Photo:VCG

Following several high-level US official visits to China over the past few months, bilateral ties that were at the lowest ebb started to thaw and show signs of stabilizing. The Biden administration, however, should show sincerity by taking substantive moves to maintain the hard-won atmosphere instead of coercing China with its hysterical political campaign, which has been heating up, experts said.

The comment came after US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who has just concluded her China visit, said on Tuesday she does not expect any revisions to US tariffs on China imposed during former US president Donald Trump's administration until an ongoing review is completed by the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), according to an interview with CNBC. 

The commerce chief said it is not clear when the USTR will conclude the review.

In May 2022, the USTR commenced the statutory four-year review process. 

The ongoing Section 301 tariffs on some $350 billion worth of Chinese imports should have expired in the summer of 2022, but the USTR extended them.

The Biden administration expects to complete the review this fall, USTR chief Katherine Tai told the Senate Finance Committee in written responses to questions, US media outlet Politico reported in July.

"The current momentum of stabilizing China-US ties following recent frequent bilateral exchanges has created a good atmosphere for the two countries to resolve the trade dispute around tariffs, which was unilaterally initiated by the US," Gao Lingyun, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Wednesday, urging the US to show sincerity and take pragmatic moves.

It is unlikely that the Biden administration will make major tariff changes, given the mounting political pressure it faces amid a heating-up presidential election campaign, Gao noted.

"But some subtle revisions in a technical way could be expected, possibly an exemption or suspension of tariffs on certain products," he added.

Wu Xinbo, director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, agreed, saying big breakthroughs in US economic policy on China, including trade, can't be expected, and China has no illusions about that.

"Yet some loosening signs are likely to be released, dealing with a small piece of the big picture," Wu told the Global Times on Wednesday.

In December last year, the USTR announced a nine-month extension of 352 product exclusions in the China Section 301 Investigation that had been scheduled to expire at the end of 2022. The products ranged from pumps and motor vehicle components to backpacks. 

The exclusions were initially reinstated on March 28, 2022.

Now with the tariff extension set to expire on September 30, experts said there is high possibility that the USTR will announce a further extension.

"As part of this review, we are considering the existing tariffs structure and how to make the tariffs more strategic in light of impacts on sectors of the US economy as well [as] the goal of increasing domestic manufacturing," Tai said.

The US unilaterally initiated additional tariffs on certain imports from China starting from 2018, which have made US importers bear almost the entire burden, the US International Trade Commission, a bipartisan entity that analyzes trade issues, said in a report published in March.

Separately, according to an article published on the website of the US Council on Foreign Relations, it said "those tariffs, put in place when Trump invoked Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, have not only failed to achieve their objectives, but have hurt US businesses and consumers along the way."

While many respondents acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic and high inflation contributed to layoffs, lower wages and fewer people being hired, tariffs were identified as an important factor in firms' decisions to reduce their workforces. Some companies even pointed directly to the Section 301 duties as being the driving force, according to the article. 

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce has repeatedly called on the US to cancel all additional tariffs imposed on China as soon as possible and work with the Chinese side to maintain the stability of global industrial and supply chains for the benefit of the two peoples and the world.

"Tariffs under Section 301 are typical unilateralism and trade protectionism, which have seriously interfered with the normal conduct of bilateral trade between China and the US, undermining the stability of global industrial and supply chains, and US importers and consumers have been deeply affected by them," Shu Jueting, a spokesperson for the ministry, said early this year.

For overall China-US ties in the near term, observers will be closely watching to see if there is a meeting between the heads of state during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November in San Francisco. Wu warned that the US should not coerce China with its hysterical political agenda as the presidential election year is coming and campaigns have been heating up.

 "In the high-tech sector, Washington's relentless curbs on Chinese firms citing the so-called 'national security' cliché are essentially aimed at containing China's rising technology development," Wu said.

On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported that US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday the government wanted to know the precise composition of the processor in Huawei's Mate60 Pro mobile phone, which was unexpectedly released last week when Raimondo was still visiting the country.

"What it tells us, regardless, is that the US should continue on its course of a 'small yard, high fence' set of technology restrictions focused narrowly on national security concerns, not on the broader question of commercial decoupling," Sullivan was quoted as saying.

The Huawei phone, having kicked off online sales on Sunday, highlights the country's capability of conducting independent technological research and development despite US sanctions.