USTR Tai Says Fighting Inflation More Complicated Than Cutting China Tariffs

USTR Tai Says Fighting Inflation More Complicated Than Cutting China Tariffs
Trade Representative Katherine Tai speaks during a reception to celebrate Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, on May 17, 2022. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

WASHINGTON—U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Monday said fighting inflation is a more complicated issue than can be addressed with a “singular focus” on China tariffs, and that it was important to bring a “thoughtful, deliberate, strategic” approach to the U.S.–China trade relationship.

Tai, in remarks to the Washington International Trade Association, said inflation was “scary” and hurting Americans’ pocketbooks but was a complicated issue with many causes.

“The economy is large and there are a lot of pressure points and levers in that economy,” Tai said. “If we’re going to take on an issue like inflation, and given the seriousness that it requires, then our approach to tools for mitigating and addressing that inflation need to respect that it is a more complicated issue than just tariffs.”

Tai’s remarks indicate that a debate within the Biden administration is continuing over whether to cut some U.S. “Section 301” duties on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese imports of up to 25 percent imposed by former President Donald Trump.

Tai said it was important for the Biden administration “to bring a thoughtful, strategic deliberate approach to how we manage this relationship (with Beijing) overall.”

Among the administration’s most important responsibilities “is to figure out how to get this relationship right and nothing about this relationship is easy,” she added.

Tai has been at odds with U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen over the future of the Section 301 tariffs, with Yellen arguing that they hurt U.S. consumers and businesses and that they could have some effect on reducing prices.

By David Lawder