Businesses, experts oppose keeping tariffs


The cost of the tariffs on China has far exceeded any benefits derived from them, so the incoming US administration should roll them back, a major American business group said Monday as the US trade chief advised President-elect Joe Biden to retain the punitive measures on China.

FILE PHOTO: US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer speaks at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on U.S. trade on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., US, June 17, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, architect of the tariff policy that he argues benefited American workers, said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, “We transformed the way people think about trade, and we transformed the way the models are. … My hope is that that will continue.”

The outgoing trade chief also advised the next administration to weaken the World Trade Organization so that it can’t overrule US policies and make it harder for American companies to move overseas despite the cost to their competitiveness, the Journal reported on Monday.

“Our members oppose the tariffs because of the high costs imposed on US consumers, households, and businesses,” said Doug Barry, director of communications for the US-China Business Council.

The USCBC represents more than 230 US companies that operate in a diverse range of industries and employ millions of Americans.

The US has left in place most of the new and increased tariffs on $360 billion worth of Chinese-made goods following the phase one trade deal it signed with China nearly a year ago.

“Any benefits derived from the tariffs have been far exceeded by the costs. A moderate rollback of tariffs would increase US economic growth and stimulate employment growth,” Barry told China Daily.

He said China, for its part, needs to fulfill its purchase commitment under the phase one trade deal and support a phase two trade pact that would lead to a “greater opening” of the Chinese economy.

However, some researchers in Washington, like David Dollar of the Brookings Institution, have called the phase one deal a product of “managed trade”, whose targets were “completely unrealistic”.

Chad P. Bown, a senior fellow with the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), proposed that Washington “unilaterally drop the artificial targets of the purchase commitments” in the US-China phase one agreement, “as these do not encourage trade liberalization or market reform”.

“In a globalized world, US companies need to be thinking about selling into other markets,” Bown tweeted Monday on Lighthizer’s remarks.

“Trump’s tariffs targeted imported inputs, raised their costs, and made manufacturing in America only that much harder,” he noted.

USCBC President Craig Allen also said Monday that the imposition of tariffs has had an impact on American imports, exports and productivity, and the tariffs led to the loss of many thousands of American jobs.

He argued that the tariffs also set the foundation for the phase one agreement, and the removal of the tariffs should be “predicated” on further opening of the Chinese market as a part of a phase two agreement.

In “US Industry Priorities for US-China Commercial Relations”, a report the USCBC released last month to present recommendations for the new administration, the organization said the phase one deal “has served as a stabilizing force while the bilateral relationship has deteriorated in most other respects”.

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