“Now is the time that we have to take on these festering issues,” Willems said during a Washington International Trade Association event. “We don’t want to wait for 10 more years of unfair trade practices to see where that puts us. Now is the time to take this up, and I think that if we do take this up, the ultimate place that we land is going to be better for everyone.”
After an administration Section 301 investigation found unfair commercial practices like forced tech transfer and intellectual property theft by China, the Trump administration on July 6 launched 25 percent tariffs on goods from China across $34 billion worth of goods in 2017 import value.
The tariffs expanded to cover another $16 billion worth of goods from China on Aug. 23, and 10 percent tariffs were imposed across another $200 billion worth of goods starting Sept. 24.
The third rounds of tariffs had been set to rise to 25 percent on Jan. 1, but President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping during a Dec. 1 meeting at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires reached a deal to stave off further tariffs by either side until at least March 1 as both sides work to find a more permanent solution.
“Between now and March 1, I can promise you, there’s going to be a lot that happens between the U.S. and China,” Willems said. “We are interacting with each other on a routine basis across a range areas, and that includes economic issues. That includes issues outside the economic space, be it security and other things. The conversation in Argentina, as well, wasn’t only trade issues.”
Willems said that various actions may be publicly perceived as positive or negative, but added that broad conclusions shouldn’t be drawn from every announcement by the U.S. and China during the course of talks.
Critiques of previous bilateral dialogues have largely focused on China’s failures to follow through on its promises, he noted.
The Trump administration will focus on China’s actions during this 90-day breathing period, Willems said.
“We hope to see positive things coming out of China in the weeks and months ahead, and ultimately, then, we hope that the real structural things get addressed,” he said. “It needs to be structural, and it needs to be implemented, not merely committed.”