Washington's clinging to misguided trade war hurting US businesses: China Daily editorial

Americans for Free Trade, a coalition of over 150 industry associations, has again urged the Joe Biden administration to put an end to the “misguided trade war” initiated by the previous US administration.

“It’s time for a new approach to working with our trading partners that relieves the weight of the current tariffs and finally brings an end to this misguided trade war,” AFT spokesperson Jonathan Gold said in a statement on Tuesday.

This is the second time over the past two months that major trade groups have made such a call, on the basis that it is the US businesses and consumers that have been footing the bill for the punitive tariffs imposed on the goods worth $350 billion imported from China each year.

However, the Biden administration has been turning a deaf ear to the cries of suffering, and there have been recent US media reports that the administration is considering launching a so-called Section 301 investigation into Chinese subsidies, which could lead to new tariffs on imports from China.

The previous administration initiated the tariff hikes, raising them bit by bit, as a tactic to press China to swallow an unfair trade deal. The Biden administration, however, is intent on normalizing the weaponization of the tariffs as an intrinsic part of his administration’s strategy to contain China.

Over the past four years, the bipartisan foundation for the containment of China has become more fortified, as it is one of the few issues on which the two political parties in the US can find any meeting points and it has become a theatrical touchstone of patriotism for politicians in the US, which has prompted the anti-China policy portfolio to be transformed from a trade war into an all-society campaign.

That being said, as both countries have been able to live with the tariffs, which are painful but not fatal, and the tensions between them are continuing to build up, it is unrealistic to expect the Biden administration to take the initiative to end the tariffs.

That’s why Chinese Ambassador to the United States Qin Gang pointed out on Monday during a virtual meeting with board members of the US-China Business Council that the difficulties and uncertainties in the Sino-US economic and trade cooperation originate from the US side.

But as Qin said, economic and trade cooperation have been the ballast and propeller for Sino-US relations. As such, having agreed in his recent telephone conversation with President Xi Jinping that the two countries’ competition should not veer into conflict, Biden should ensure they can still play those roles.

In so doing, his administration can help create the right conditions for the two sides to come back to the negotiation table for phase two of their trade deal. Given the broad implications of their trade concerns, the negotiations, if carried out with mutual respect and on an equal footing, have the potential to build guardrails for their interactions in the form of rules of behavior that would allow their relation to develop in a more predictable manner.