Talking with China won't stop cheating: US trade chief

June 19, 2019 09:35
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer testifies before a Senate Finance Committee hearing in Washington on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters

US tariffs on Chinese goods may not be enough to force Beijing to make the economic reforms demanded by Washington, but the trade barriers are the only recourse given that dialogue has failed, the top US trade official said on Tuesday.

“I don’t know if it will get them to stop cheating, tariffs alone,” US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told lawmakers at a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, Reuters reports.

“I think you don’t have any other option. I know one thing that won’t work and that is talking to them.”

US President Donald Trump earlier on Tuesday said he had spoken to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and that the two countries will resume talks and meet at the G20 summit in Japan later this month. 

Washington wants changes from Beijing that would rewrite the terms of trade between the two countries by improving intellectual property protection, halting forced technology transfers and industrial subsidies and removing other barriers that hamper US businesses in China.

Lighthizer was giving his first testimony to lawmakers since talks that he was leading for the United States broke down in May.

Even as Lighthizer was addressing the Senate panel, other officials were in the second of seven days of listening to public comments from retailers, manufacturers and others that would be affected if Trump proceeds with tariffs on another US$300 billion worth of Chinese goods.

Trump has ordered Lighthizer to prepare those tariffs, and says he will impose them if the meeting with Xi yields insufficient progress on the trade disputes.

“I don’t even know if we’re going to have the tariffs. It’s up to the president,” Lighthizer said as senators probed him on the cost of tariffs to US companies, farmers and consumers.

The United States already has tariffs of 25 percent on US$250 billion worth of Chinese goods.

In other comments, Lighthizer said US negotiators were “making headway” with Japan on a bilateral deal that would secure greater access for American farmers.

US trade officials will meet Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of the G20 summit, Lighthizer said.

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