Commentary: Why didn’t US President Joe Biden end the tariff war with China?

Third, Trump’s tariffs have failed to meet targets – the US trade deficit with China continues to widen, as US consumers foot the bill in tariffs, paying an additional US $ 1,277 per year on average for consumer goods.

Manufacturing jobs have not been relocated, with an estimated loss of 320,000 jobs now expected by 2025. The continuing tariff war undermines Biden’s own national priority, economic recovery.


The tariff war was a convenient political device for Trump’s populist “America First” program, which served to build political support for his presidency.

Biden’s reluctance to stray from Trump’s legacy is undermining the prospects of the United States reintegrating into the multilateral system and regaining global economic leadership. The unilateral imposition of tariffs on China clearly departs from a multilateral approach.

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Under Trump, trade restrictions were often enforced by executive orders in the name of broadly and loosely defined national security concerns. But protecting sensitive technologies could follow the “little court, high fence” approach through legislation instead of imposing a general and punitive tariff regime.

If the United States is to regain global leadership, it must resist the temptation of unilateralism and instead rebuild and strengthen a credible rules-based multilateral system.

It is clear that the US tariff war has failed to force China to move on structural reforms that are not aligned with its own long-term interests.

China considers some of its economic policies – such as support for state-owned enterprises (SOE) – to be unique to its economic system and essential to its success. From Beijing’s perspective, US demands for changes in SOE policies constitute interference.

The United States must understand China’s development goals and approaches, and work multilaterally to formulate and update international rules.

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While the tariff war is blatantly counterproductive, phasing out tariffs without any major Chinese concessions is a political challenge. Waging the tariff war may temporarily distract attention from structural problems in the US economy.

Kevin E. Boling

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