US needs new trade rules, says new US Trade Representative

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AMERICA needs new legal tools to combat China threats, says US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, Reuters reports.

Ms Tai told US lawmakers that existing trade laws seek to protect US firms after they have already been harmed, rather than anticipating and preventing damage.

New tools could lay the groundwork for future new tariffs to shield more US industries or be used as leverage in negotiations, she told the US House Ways and Means committee.

“I would really like to strengthen the trade tools that we have to address the problems we have today,” she said, adding that many of the US trade laws are nearly 50 or 60 years old.

US trade laws, with their backward-looking nature, have struggled to prevent damage to the US steel industry as China has built up massive amounts of production capacity over the past 20 years, she said, adding that China’s industrial plans show it is poised to do the same in other industries.

“I think we need tools that are not just about responding to harms that we have experienced in the past, but tools that are going to anticipate where we’re going to have the same pattern of harm to allow us to get ahead of the harm, and allow us to respond as quickly as possible.”

Ms Tai also called for an update to the 1962 “Section 232” national security trade statute that was used to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

Beijing’s “Made in China 2025” plan targets investments in 10 strategic industries now largely dominated by the United States, including aerospace, semiconductors and information technology, robotics, green energy and electric vehicles, agricultural machinery, pharmaceuticals and advanced materials.

The Biden administration said is conducting a “top-to-bottom review” of China trade policy, including how to approach former president Donald Trump’s “Phase 1” trade deal with Beijing that expires at the end of 2021.

She said the review also will 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.

Returning to the committee where she guided policy as the chief Democratic trade lawyer, Tai reiterated the Biden administration’s tough stance on China’s trade and human rights abuses.

“We welcome fair competition. But if China cannot or will not adapt to international rules and norms, we must level the playing field,” she said.