Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., requested the Biden administration keep tariffs on Chinese goods in place, while also calling for an investigation into China’s alleged unfair trade practices, citing a letter from U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai that was cited in a Washington Examiner report.
In the Monday letter sent to Tai, Hawley argued the current tariffs level the playing field for American workers and help compete with China economically.
Hawley also inquired about the status of an anticipated investigation into Beijing’s use of industrial subsidies that allegedly give Chinese companies a boost over their American rivals.
“China repeatedly violates the rules of international trade and unapologetically steals and cheats in its economic relationship with the United States,” wrote Hawley. “To cut tariffs at this juncture would be a strategic blunder.”
The Trump administration imposed tariffs on roughly $370 billion worth of Chinese goods, utilizing Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, according to the Examiner.
The tariffs were aimed at pressuring China to suspend what officials described as a pattern of unfair trade practices and “theft of American intellectual property,” with the first wave taking place in July 2018.
The Biden administration has begun the process of its legally required review of the Trump-era tariffs, according to the Examiner. Citing the same report, an investigation into Chinese subsidies under Section 301 “was telegraphed last year but has not materialized.”
The apparent urgency of Hawley’s letter might coincide with the White House garnering criticism for 40-year highs with inflation, along with President Joe Biden’s rumored-about Tuesday announcement of ways to curb U.S. inflation.
The latest data shows inflation surging 8.5% compared to last year, which has likely taken a significant toll with Americans when purchasing gas, groceries, and medicine.
“I think it’s worth considering,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told Bloomberg TV last month when asked about lifting tariffs on Chinese-made goods to ease rising prices.
The White House has largely kept the Trump-era tariffs in place, to date.
“We’re not there yet,” said President Biden when asked about the notion of lifting the China-centric tariffs.
Tai has previously has argued that lifting the tariffs would forfeit U.S. leverage at the negotiating table with China. “No negotiator walks away from leverage, right?” she told the Wall Street Journal last year.
Before Yellen’s comments, deputy national security adviser Daleep Singh said many of the Section 301 tariffs should be “reframed” to serve the United States’ strategic priorities.
Singh also suggested that duties on consumer goods “serve no strategic purpose.”
“For product categories that are not implicated by [supply chain] objectives, there’s not much of a case for those tariffs being in place,” Singh recently said at an event. “Why do we have tariffs on bicycles or apparel or underwear?”
At the Milken Institute, a California-based economic think tank, Tai reportedly acknowledged that while “all tools are on the table,” the U.S. should remain focused on its longer-term goals.
“We need to be looking at our economic policy tools across the board. You want to look at tariffs? Sure, let’s look at tariffs. But also, let’s look at monetary policy, fiscal policy, let’s look at tax policy,” Tai said.
Tai then added: “We need to make sure whatever we do right now, first of all, is effective and, second of all, doesn’t undermine the medium-term design and strategy that we know we need to pursue.”
According to trade data compiled by the Peterson Institute of International Economics, citing a timeline through December 2021, China has fallen roughly 40% short of the $200 billion in additional U.S. goods it promised to purchase over the past two years.
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