Biden’s cabinet picks say US will oppose China’s trade abuses

The choices of President-elect Joe Biden to lead economic and foreign policy signaled Tuesday that there would be no slack in Washington’s efforts to tackle China’s trade abuses.

The new administration’s comments reflect unusual common ground with outgoing President Donald Trump, who over the past four years has unleashed an aggressive and costly trade war that has imposed billions of dollars in punitive tariffs on Chinese products.

Janet Yellen, Biden’s choice for Treasury secretary, and Antony Blinken, who was chosen to head the State Department, nevertheless highlighted areas of difference, particularly the new administration’s commitments to work with allies. of the United States and to promote investment to make American businesses and workers more competitive against Beijing.

Responding to questions from the Senate Finance Committee during its confirmation hearing Tuesday, Yellen called China “our most important strategic competitor.”

She accused Beijing of “undermining American businesses” by offering illegal subsidies, selling products at below-market prices, stealing intellectual property and erecting barriers to American exports.

“We must tackle China’s abusive, unfair and illegal practices,” she said, adding that “we are ready to use the full range of tools” to resolve these issues.

Speaking the day before Biden took office, she also pledged to monitor the national security implications of China’s theft of “trade secrets” and “illegal efforts to acquire critical technology”.

Biden’s transition team pressed for her “quick confirmation” in a statement after her testimony, saying Yellen “has demonstrated that she is the bold and experienced leader needed to head the Treasury to begin to better rebuild our country. economy”.

Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “President Trump was right to take a tougher approach towards China,” but added, “I totally disagree with the way he’s been doing it. is caught up in a number of areas ”.

– Invest in America –

Unlike Trump, who withdrew from multilateral organizations and attacked the trade policies of US partners and adversaries, Yellen stressed that it will be important to “work with our allies” to tackle the challenge posed by China.

Democrats have complained bitterly for years about the exodus of jobs and industry to the Asian country. Trump, a Republican, doubled down on those complaints and won the support of many workers.

In a farewell speech on Tuesday, the outgoing president defended his record, saying he had exerted unprecedented international pressure on Communist rival Washington.

“We have revitalized our alliances and rallied the nations of the world to stand up to China like never before,” Trump said, according to excerpts released by the White House.

But he has in fact systematically acted unilaterally, while withdrawing and crippling the World Trade Organization, which enforces the rules of world trade.

Biden, a Democrat, has also pledged to stand up for American workers and manufacturing and, under his slogan “Build Back Better,” is expected to come up with a stimulus package soon that includes massive investments in infrastructure.

Yellen said the policy would help push back Beijing’s economic challenge.

Washington must “make investments that allow us to compete with China (…) by investing in our infrastructure, investing in our people and creating a more competitive economy,” she said.

– Currency manipulation –

Trump, like other administrations before him, also accused China of keeping its currency artificially low in order to make its products cheaper and gain a trade advantage, and Yellen underscored Washington’s opposition to the practice.

The value of the US dollar against other currencies “should be determined by the markets,” Yellen said, while promising “to oppose any attempt by foreign countries to artificially manipulate the value of currencies to gain an unfair advantage in trade “.

She also told senators that global digital tax negotiations under the auspices of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development are important for Washington to levy taxes on companies that have moved their headquarters overseas.

“This would allow us to collect a fair share of businesses, while maintaining the competitiveness of our businesses and decreasing the incentives that US businesses now have to outsource,” Yellen said.

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