© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai speaks to members of the media following a tour of a silicon wafer plant being expanded by South Korean semiconductor manufacturer SK Siltron CSS, in Bay City, Michigan, U.S., March 16, 2022. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook
By Steve Scherer and David Lawder
OTTAWA (Reuters) – U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said on Thursday her agency’s review of punitive tariffs on Chinese goods will be a “robust” consultative process that will collect a wide range of industry comments and assess potential economic impacts.
Tai, speaking to reporters in Ottawa with Canada Trade Minister Mary Ng, said decisions about tariffs would not be made “in a vacuum.”
Tai pledged to “focus on how important this process is and how important it is for us to hear from all of our stakeholders across the economy.”
USTR on Wednesday issued a Federal Register notice that it will conduct a statutory four-year review of the initial “Section 301” tariffs it imposed on Chinese imports in 2018 when the Trump administration had a dispute with Beijing over China’s intellectual property and technology transfer practices.
USTR will collect industry comments on the first batch of Chinese industrial imports valued at $34 billion at the time from May 7 until July 5, and on a second batch covering $16 billion in imports from June 24 to Aug 22.
Asked whether she views the tariffs as important leverage to hold China to commitments including a “Phase 1” trade deal negotiated by the Trump administration in early 2020, Tai said she was focused on the longer term.
“It is important for us to focus on a durable, effective strategy with respect to our ability to compete with China, in this global environment and through the very disruptive period that we are experiencing right now that is causing pain to the ordinary American back at home,” Tai said.
Recent comments by deputy national security adviser Daleep Singh and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen about the deflationary impact of tariff reductions sparked speculation the administration was thinking about changing course.
On Monday, Tai said all tools were on the table to address rising inflation, including reductions of tariffs on Chinese imports, but that any policy shift needed to keep medium-term goals in mind.
Such goals include building a more resilient, durable, global economy that served workers as well as consumers, she added.
Regarding trade with Canada, Tai said dairy issues were among the most difficult. The United States has raised concerns about Canada’s allocation of import quotas for dairy products under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
In a readout of her meeting with Ng, USTR said Tai stressed the importance of Canada fully meeting its USMCA commitments, including on dairy and access to its home-shopping market.
“Additionally, Ambassador Tai expressed concern about Canada’s proposed digital service tax and Underused Housing Tax,” USTR said.