SYDNEY—Tariffs are forcing China to pay attention to U.S. concerns, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in Sydney on Oct. 10.
Ross said the United States would have preferred not to implement tariffs against Chinese goods more than a year ago, but added that it has forced Beijing into action.
“We do not love tariffs, in fact we would prefer not to use them, but after years of discussions and no action, tariffs are finally forcing China to pay attention to our concerns,” Ross told a business function held by the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia.
“We could have had a deal two-and-a-half years ago without going through the whole tit-for-tat on tariffs that we have.”
Ross is on an official visit to Australia.
Top U.S. and Chinese trade and economic officials will meet in Washington on Thursday and Friday to try to end the escalating trade dispute.
Without a significant breakthrough, Washington is set to hike the tariff rate on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods to 30 percent from 25 percent next Tuesday.
The two sides have been at loggerheads over U.S. demands that China improve protections of American intellectual property, end cyber theft and the forced transfer of technology to Chinese firms, curb industrial subsidies and increase U.S. companies’ access to largely closed Chinese markets.
Ross said the most difficult problem to solve in trade negotiations with China was making sure that the terms of an agreement would be adhered to.
“Trade agreements historically have been very weak on enforcement,” Ross said.
“Given the magnitude and the complexity of the changes we need, enforcement becomes an extremely critical component of any agreement that we make.”
Ross said the U.S. believes China needs to mend its ways. “China has refused to change its behavior,” he said. “In fact, its global trade practices have only gotten worse.”
“If we can get China to abide by the global rules of trade, every nation in the world will benefit,” he said.
By Colin Packham and Jonathan Barrett. The Associated Press contributed to this report.