Biden’s Trade Nominee Calls Tariffs an Important Tool in Resolving Trade Disputes

February 26, 2021 Updated: February 26, 2021

President Joe Biden’s administration views tariffs as an important factor in resolving trade disputes, according to his nominee for U.S. Trade Representative, Katherine Tai.

“Tariffs are a very important part of our fair trade remedies toolbox,” Tai told the Senate Finance Committee at her confirmation hearing on Feb. 25.

Her comments signal that the Biden administration has no plans to roll back on the strict tariffs imposed by former President Donald Trump on China, Europe, and other countries, despite heavily criticizing them during his 2020 presidential campaign.

The Trump administration placed tariffs on $360 billion worth of Chinese goods, including imported steel and aluminium, in response to the regime’s expansive state-sanctioned campaign to steal U.S. intellectual property (IP).

It also entered into trade negotiations with the regime in an attempt to force Beijing to overhaul a range of unfair economic practices, such as heavy subsidies for domestic industries, forcing U.S. companies to transfer IP as a condition to enter the Chinese market, and currency manipulation.

China retaliated with tariffs on more than $110 billion in U.S. products.

“We have to acknowledge that we have, overall, a very significant global marketplace problem in the steel and aluminum markets that are driven primarily by China’s overcapacity that it’s built in production of these materials,” Tai said Thursday. “But it’s not just a China problem.”

Tai said she would work to ensure that China meets its commitments under a January 2020 trade accord between Beijing and Washington but she said she supports a “holistic review on China” and U.S.-China strategy.

Elsewhere on Thursday, Tai pledged to work with allies to hold the Chinese regime accountable for its unfair trade practices, describing it as “simultaneously a rival, a trade partner, and an outsized player whose cooperation we’ll also need to address certain global challenges.”

“I know firsthand how critically important it is that we have a strategic and coherent plan for holding China accountable to its promises and effectively competing with its model of state-directed economics,” she said.

While Tai said that discussions with the regime in Beijing regarding structural reforms are “absolutely worth exploring with China,” the nominee noted that “those are roads that have been well worn by U.S. trade representatives before me.”

“We need to be exploring all of our options,” Tai added.

Tai also emphasized building “a united front of U.S. allies” to combat Beijing’s predatory practices, while acknowledging that working with others was “hard work.”

“We must also impart the values and rules that guide global commerce—and we must enforce those terms vigorously,” she said.

Tai, who grew up in Taiwan and is a fluent Mandarin speaker, is the top trade lawyer for the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee. She also previously served for several years as head of China enforcement at the trade representative’s office.

Cathy He and Reuters contributed to this report.