South China Morning Post | 27 May 2021
US-China trade war: top negotiators hold ‘candid and constructive’ talks, first of Joe Biden presidency
by Teddy Ng , Wendy Wu in Beijing and Reuters
Top trade negotiators from China and the United States held their first telephone call since Joe Biden entered the White House, and stressed the importance of improving their bilateral trade ties.
A brief statement on Thursday by China’s Ministry of Commerce said Vice-Premier Liu He and US Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai had a “candid and constructive” exchange.
“The two sides conducted candid, pragmatic and constructive exchanges in an attitude of equality and mutual respect. The two sides believe that the development of bilateral trade is very important, and they exchanged views on issues of mutual concern and agreed to continue to communicate,” the statement said.
A statement from the USTR’s office said that Tai had discussed the guiding principles of the Biden administration’s worker-centred trade policy and her ongoing review of the US-China trade relationship, while also raising issues of concern.
During their candid exchange, Ambassador Tai discussed the guiding principles of the Biden-Harris Administration’s worker-centred trade policy and her ongoing review of the US-China trade relationship, while also raising issues of concern USTR statement
“Ambassador Katherine Tai held an introductory virtual meeting with Vice-Premier of the People’s Republic of China, Liu He, to discuss the importance of the trade relationship between the United States and China,” the USTR statement said.
“During their candid exchange, Ambassador Tai discussed the guiding principles of the Biden-Harris Administration’s worker-centred trade policy and her ongoing review of the US-China trade relationship, while also raising issues of concern. Ambassador Tai noted that she looks forward to future discussions with Vice-Premier Liu.”
The previous time the two sides’ top trade negotiators talked was in August during Donald Trump’s presidency after the US and China signed a partial trade deal in January 2020.
Trade negotiators from the two countries were expected to talk roughly every six months to review the progress of implementation of that agreement.
The overall challenges that we have with China are also still there and they are very large Katherine Tai
Tai said that the US still faces “very large challenges” in its trade and economic relationship with China that require the Biden administration’s attention across the board.
Speaking to Reuters in an interview on Wednesday, Tai said the phase one trade deal was important but only one part of a challenging and complex relationship between the world’s two largest economies.
Regarding the phase one trade deal, which requires Beijing to vastly increase purchases of US agricultural goods, manufactured products, energy and services, Tai said: “Let’s put it in the context of the overall US-China trade, and economic relationship which is very, very challenging. And requires our attention all across the board.”
According to the latest analysis of the phase one trade deal by the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), China’s total imports of covered products from the US was US$47.1 billion at the end of April, compared with a year-to-date target of US$64.5 billion. Over the same period, US exports to China of covered products was US$34.5 billion, compared with a year-to-date target of US$57.4 billion.
China’s purchases of all covered products had reached 73 per cent in terms of Chinese imports or 60 per cent in terms of US exports of the year-to-date target by the end of April, the report said.
The PIIE report added that China’s purchases of covered agricultural products had reached 87 per cent of the year-to-date target in terms of Chinese imports or 79 per cent in terms of US exports as of the end of April.
China’s purchases of covered manufactured products had reached 71 per cent (Chinese imports) or 64 per cent (US exports) of the year-to-date target, while China‘s purchases of covered energy products reached 56 per cent in terms of Chinese imports or 32 per cent in terms of US exports.
A “top-to-bottom review” of China’s trade policy
by the Biden administration was expected to include how to approach Trump’s phase one trade deal with Beijing that expires at the end of 2021.
Tai said in March that a trade meeting between China and the US would take place “when the time is right”, and that US tariffs on Chinese imports would remain as “no negotiator walks away from leverage”.
Tai added earlier this month that the review would include what to do with many expired exclusions from Section 301 tariffs on Chinese imports, noting that “time is of the essence” in completing the review.
Last week, the US and the European Union issued a joint statement
saying that they can partner to “hold countries like China that support trade-distorting policies to account”.
The statement was issued by Tai, US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and European Commission executive vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis.