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US won't be lifting tariffs on China: Biden's trade chief

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Trade Representative Katherine Tai (File photo)

The United States has no plan to lift tariffs on China in the near future, says US Trade Representative Katherine Tai amid rising tension between the world’s two largest economies.

Tai, who made the remarks in an interview with The Wall Street Journal published on Sunday, also signaled a potential openness to trade talks with Beijing.

She said that she understood tariffs could adversely affect US businesses and consumers, but also recognized the stand among some that the taxes help shield companies from subsidized foreign competition.

"I have heard people say, 'Please just take these tariffs off,'" Tai said, however, "yanking off tariffs," she added, could be harmful to the economy unless the change is "communicated in a way so that the actors in the economy can make adjustments."

“Whether they are companies, traders, manufacturers or their workers, the ability to plan” for changes that impact on their future is indispensable, she added.

Ties between Washington and Beijing particularly soured under former US president Donald Trump, who clashed with China on trade, technology, and regional security, among other things.

During his four-year presidency, Trump slapped numerous sanctions and tariffs on China.

According to the Journal, the US imposed tariffs on approximately $370 billion of goods from China annually and, in response, Beijing placed tariffs on $110 billion of American goods.

Tai also pointed to the tactical reason for maintaining tariffs on China, describing them as “leverage.”

“No negotiator walks away from leverage, right?” she said.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has also said Trump-era tariffs would remain in place and that any changes would depend on China’s adherence to trade deal commitments.

The administration of President Joe Biden has generally backed the tougher approach to China initiated by Trump.

At his first news conference Thursday since taking office, Biden vowed to prevent China from overtaking the US to become the world’s most powerful country, a statement reeking of paranoia.

“I see stiff competition with China,” Biden said. “They have an overall goal to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world and the most powerful country in the world. That’s not going to happen on my watch, because United States is going to continue to grow and expand.”

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