China US Photo: GT
Katherine Tai was confirmed on Wednesday as the new US trade representative in a rare 98-0 Senate vote.
While the Biden administration has been so far focusing on giving a shot on the arm to the battered US economy, the confirmation of its top trade official may signal that the administration is prepared to tackle the multi-front trade rows that were initiated by the previous Trump administration.
Given the trade frictions between the US and almost all of its major trading partners over the past four years, there will surely be lots of work for the new Trade Representative, including the US-EU aircraft subsidy dispute and the US-China tariffs war.
Katherine Tai will certainly have to straighten out the country’s foreign trade relations and trade policies in the next few years, among which her handling of trade issues with China is bound to get the most attention worldwide.
The US economy has been struggling for a protracted period, while the Chinese economy has already recovered returning to positive growth after China successfully brought the epidemic under control.
Now a growing number of Americans have started to view China as the US’ biggest competitor. A recent poll by Gallup indicated that a total of 63 percent of Americans surveyed believe that China’s economic expansion could pose a threat to the US in the next 10 years.
Being tough on China these days appears to become “politically correct” in today’s American politics, but it is under such a complicated environment that Tai’s most important task may lie on how to reshape trade relations between the world’s two largest economies.
While everyone is talking about how the two countries have been locked in a competitive relationship, it will be the top US trade official’s greatest challenge to avoid any disastrous trade frictions between the two nations and keep the two economies in the healthy competition track.
If Tai can bring US-China trade back to normalcy from the confrontational lose-lose tariff war, and technology war, it would be her biggest contribution to the US economy that is in need of restoring its confidence as the world’s largest economy.
At present, the Alaska high-level dialogue between officials of China and the US, which is scheduled to take place on Thursday, has attracted a lot of global attention, but observers generally believe it is unlikely to focus too much on bilateral trade issues or other economic topics. This is because the problems between China and the US are so complicated that it is unrealistic to expect a single dialogue to solve all the issues facing the two countries.
We hope that the meeting this time represents the beginning and starting point of US-China dialogue. If the two sides can find room for future consultation, the trade representatives from the two countries will certainly have the opportunity for further discussions of their problems.
It is true that China and the US have had a trade tussle, which is somehow normal considering the significant volume of their trade. It is important that both sides make efforts to avoid disputes from escalating into crisis, which can only be achieved through a constructive and rational communication.