Janet Yellen, President Joe Biden’s pick for Treasury secretary, said Tuesday that the Biden administration will use all available tools to fight “China’s abusive unfair and illegal practices” that undercut America’s economy.
Yellen, a former chair of Federal Reserve, made the remarks during her Tuesday confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, at which she called China “our most important strategic competitor.”
She said China has been “undercutting American companies” with a raft of mercantilist policies, including illegally subsidizing domestic companies, dumping cheap products into foreign markets, stealing intellectual property, and putting up barriers to U.S. goods.
“We’re prepared to use the full array of tools” to address those issues, Yellen said, although she did not specify what actions the Biden administration would take to combat China’s economically hostile policies.
Former President Donald Trump took China to task for its mercantilist posture, imposing unilateral tariffs on $370 billion worth of Chinese goods, citing as motivation various anti-competitive and unfair trade practices on China’s part, including forced technology transfers from U.S. companies, and restricting access to domestic markets.
Other moves by Trump include delisting Chinese telecommunications companies on the New York Stock Exchange, blacklisting some Chinese companies—including China’s largest computer-chip maker—and banning transactions with Chinese-connected apps.
Last week, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer urged the incoming Biden administration to keep tariffs on China, while crediting Trump for taking on the regime in Beijing for its spate of actions that have disadvantaged the United States.
“We transformed the way people think about trade, and we transformed the way the models are,” Lighthizer told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published on Jan. 11. “My hope is that that will continue.”
Yellen, at the hearing, did not indicate whether the Biden administration would maintain Trump’s tariffs, although she did call for a multilateral approach to confront Beijing, in contrast to Trump’s go-it-alone approach.
“I believe we should try to address unfair trade practices, and the best way to do that is to work with our allies rather than unilaterally,” Yellen said.
Yellen also said that the Biden administration would focus on winning quick passage of its proposed $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan, rejecting Republican arguments that the measure is too big and threatens to strain public finances.
“More must be done,” Yellen said. “Without further action, we risk a longer, more painful recession now—and long-term scarring of the economy later.”
Democrats have voiced support for the Biden proposal while Republicans questioned spending nearly $2 trillion more on top of nearly $3 trillion that Congress passed in various packages last year.
Yellen, who would be the first woman to be Treasury secretary after being the first woman to be chair of the Federal Reserve, is expected to win quick Senate confirmation.
Saying that she and Biden were aware of the country’s rising debt burden, Yellen said fighting the recession was more important than curbing spending.