USTR Ambassador Tai Discusses Trade Relationship with China

Clint Thompson Trade


By Clint Thompson

United States Trade Representative (USTR) Ambassador Katherine Tai discussed trade with various countries during her time as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Outlook Forum. A focal part of her discussion with Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack centered on China.

The U.S.’s trade relationship with China is “profoundly consequential” and “increasingly complex,” she said.

“In terms of our trade conversation with China, there are a number of different aspects to this. China is at the same time many things to all of us. It is a rival. It is a competitor. But it is also a partner in areas where we can establish that kind of trust,” Tai said.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai poses for her official portrait Thursday, May 6, 2021, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Stephanie Chasez)

“We began our engagement focused on the Phase One Agreement and the commitments that China has made there. I think in the last couple of weeks, the full 2021 trade data has come out, and it has confirmed for us what we saw in the trends for 2021. When you look at the level of commitments on purchases, agricultural and non-agricultural, the Chinese made to the U.S. government and to U.S. producers two years ago, the performance has been uneven. We have shortfalls that we have to contend with. We have had very direct, honest, respectful conversations with the Chinese since the beginning of October around how can we hold China accountable for these commitments. How do we make good on this agreement?”

China Falls Short

Veronica Nigh, economist with American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), said in mid-February that the two-year Phase One Agreement should have produced about $73 billion in Ag products to China. It ended about $13 billion short. It could have added to a record $177 billion of Ag exports.

Tai assures producers that the U.S. will continue to confront China on its prior commitment.

“In the months forward that we are looking towards, we will continue our work to press China on the impacts of its policies, on our producers and increasingly focus our conversations around, how can we adapt to a world where we very much would like for China to play by our rules? But we cannot make decisions for China. What do we need to do on our own behalf to defend the interest of our economy and very much our agricultural stakeholders?”