The US Chamber of Commerce on Monday called on Joe Biden’s administration to pursue more international trade deals and articulate a coherent strategy to compete and cooperate with China, marking a shift from past demands to reduce tariffs.
Suzanne Clark, who took over as president of the largest American business lobbying group last March, urged a US return to the 11-country Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which was renamed as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) after Trump dumped the idea when he became president.
Clark also urged the US to complete trade negotiations with Britain after a decade without a major new trade pact.
“On trade, our nation is standing still, which means that we’re falling behind,” she told reporters after a speech on the chamber’s priorities for 2022.
She said that China’s recently launched trade pact, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will cut tariffs among 15 countries and put US exporters at a disadvantage.
Meanwhile, the European Union continues to forge new trade deals and China, the UK, South Korea and Taiwan are seeking to join the CPTPP, the Pacific Rim trade deal agreed by Barack Obama’s administration but abandoned by Trump in 2017.
US Needs To Step Up Asia Game
The push for more trade deals comes as a senior White House official last week said the US needed to “step up its game” on economic engagement in Asia.
The chamber has long complained about the detrimental effects of punitive US tariffs on Chinese goods imposed by the Trump administration, but Clark instead emphasised the need for a more comprehensive strategy for dealing with China.
“What we need is the US government to have a cohesive strategy about how we are confronting China on regulatory practices and human rights abuses, and at the same time that we’re able to compete to sell into that marketplace, and to cooperate on issues like sustainability,” she said.
A two-year “Phase 1” US-China trade pact requiring increased Chinese purchases of US goods expired at the end of 2021, leaving questions over how the Biden administration will hold China to commitments that have not been met, as well as tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese imports.
However, US Trade Rep Katherine Tai and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo travelled to Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur in mid-November to explore a trade pact ‘with Asian allies and friends’, but no details have emerged yet on what the Biden Administration plans in regard to China.
- Reuters with additional editing by Kevin Hamlin