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Prices add to pressure for tariffs to go

By HENG WEILI in New York and YIFAN XU in Washington | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-05-14 07:18

People shop at a grocery store on May 12, 2022 in New York City. Prices of clothing, food, gas and cars are just a few of the items that are hitting Americans' pocketbooks despite historically low unemployment. Giving hope to economists, some key inflation indicators have finally begun to slow in April. [Photo/Agencies]

Business groups and economic experts in the United States say that lifting tariffs on China could help the domestic economy, especially in the battle against inflation.

Douglas K. Barry, vice-president of communications and publications at the US-China Business Council, told China Daily:"Cheaper prices for basic goods will be a welcome relief for US companies and consumers. There is more political support for removing or reducing the tariffs than opposition.

"If some tariffs are lifted as expected, we'd like to see both governments agree to formally and seriously discuss other trade challenges such as completion of the phase one (trade) agreement, subsidies, government procurement practices and accelerated market opening and reform."

US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that his administration is evaluating how to approach the tariffs imposed on China starting in 2018, but said that no decision has yet to be made.

According to Section 301 of the US Trade Act of 1974, if no US domestic industry requests that the tariffs continue, they will expire on their four-year anniversary, which falls on July 6. But if a party requests that the tariffs remain in place, the Office of the US Trade Representative, will begin a formal review.

Katherine Tai, the US trade representative, said on May 5 in a meeting in Ottawa with Canada's trade minister that the review of the tariffs would be "robust", and any decisions would not be made "in a vacuum".

Tai pledged to "focus on how important this process is and how important it is for us to hear from all of our stakeholders across the economy".

"It is important for us to focus on a durable, effective strategy with respect to our ability to compete with China, in this global environment and through the very disruptive period that we are experiencing right now that is causing pain to the ordinary American back at home," she said.

Megan Hogan, a research analyst at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told China Daily:"Recent statements from both Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh on lowering tariffs on nonstrategic Chinese goods are very encouraging, but given the current political environment, it will be very difficult for the Biden administration to reduce or eliminate tariffs on Chinese imports because the administration does not want to be perceived as being 'soft' on China".

"For product categories that are not implicated by (supply chain) objectives, there's not much of a case for those tariffs being in place,"Singh said at an event hosted by the Bretton Woods Committee on April 22.

"I think it's worth considering,"Yellen told Bloomberg TV in April when asked whether lifting tariffs could ease US pricing pressures.

Hogan said:"It is certainly possible for the Biden administration to reduce tariffs before the (November) midterm elections, because tariff reduction is clearly within the president's power."

But she added: "There are strong protectionist and anti-China forces in Congress and in the Biden administration that are currently fighting against tariff reduction."

Hogan said that her colleague Gary Hufbauer, a former US Treasury official and nonresident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute, "is relatively confident that Congress could reach an agreement on the America Competes Act (which could include expanded tariff exclusion for Chinese products) by July.

The Biden administration in March eased some tariffs that had been imposed during the presidency of Donald Trump. But Biden has left Trump-era tariffs in place on $350 billion of Chinese goods.

On May 10, Shu Jueting, spokesperson for China's Ministry of Commerce, urged Washington to drop the tariffs, saying it would be "in the interests of US firms and consumers".

Agencies contributed to this story.


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