U.S. Signals No Thaw in Trade Relations With China

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration offered its strongest signal yet that the United States’ combative economic approach toward China would continue, with senior administration officials saying that President Biden would not immediately lift tariffs on Chinese goods and that he would hold Beijing accountable for trade commitments agreed to during the Trump administration.

Comments on Monday by Katherine Tai, the United States trade representative, and other officials provided one of the first looks at how the Biden administration plans to deal with a rising economic and security threat from China. They indicated that while Mr. Biden may have criticized the Trump administration’s aggressive approach, his White House will continue trying to counter China’s economic threats with trade barriers and other punitive measures.

That includes requiring China to uphold commitments it agreed to as part of the initial trade deal that it signed with the United States in January 2020, as well as pressing China on the issue of subsidies it offers to give its industries a competitive edge. So far, China is on a pace to fall short of its 2021 purchasing commitments by more than 30 percent, after falling short by more than 40 percent last year, according to Chad P. Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, who tracks the purchases.

China denies that it has failed to live up to the trade agreement, contending that the pandemic has created unique circumstances.

In a speech on Monday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, Ms. Tai highlighted how some of Beijing’s unfair practices have affected U.S. workers and said the United States would continue working with allies to counter them.

“We will use the full range of tools we have and develop new tools as needed to defend American economic interests from harmful policies and practices,” she said.

Ms. Tai said she would begin talking with her Chinese counterparts in the coming days about the country’s failure to live up to its agreements. In a call with reporters Sunday, senior administration officials did not rule out the possibility of imposing further tariffs on China if talks with did not produce the desired results, warning Beijing that they would use all available tools to defend the United States from state-directed industrial policies that harm its workers.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative has been considering starting an investigation into China’s use of subsidies under the same legal statute that led to the Trump administration’s tariffs, according to people familiar with the deliberations, which could ultimately allow the United States to impose more tariffs or take other punitive actions.

When asked Monday if the United States would pursue such an investigation, Ms. Tai declined to say but said she would “look at all available tools.”

In a move that would offer some relief to businesses that import Chinese products, the administration said it would re-establish an expired process that gives some companies a reprieve by excluding them from the tariffs. Trade officials would base those…

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