U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer urged the incoming Biden administration to leave tariffs on Chinese goods in place, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal released Monday.
Lighthizer directed the Trump administration’s tariff war against China, applying roughly $370 billion in tariffs by January 2020. Those tariffs cover three-quarters of Chinese goods imported into the U.S.
“We changed the way people think about China,” Lighthizer told the Journal. “We want a China policy that thinks about the geopolitical competition between the United States and an adversary—an economic adversary.”
The Trump administration has struck a confrontational stance toward China, and Americans’ antagonism toward China has heightened since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. According to Lighthizer, tariffs get results by protecting U.S. companies and workers. For example, Lighthizer said that a 25-percent tariff the administration applied to imports of Chinese cars prevented China from selling millions of vehicles in the U.S.
“We’ve protected our automobile industry, our auto parts industry,” Lighthizer said.
Critics of the trade war have pointed to substantial short-term costs to Americans, including higher prices for consumer goods. Proponents assert that tariffs will help the U.S. decouple its economy from China, benefitting its economy and strategic autonomy in the long run.
Lighthizer cautioned the Biden administration against lifting tariffs or moving to a “multilateral” strategy for engaging with China. The outgoing trade representative said waiting for approval from European and Asian nations before implementing new tariffs would tie the U.S. in useless trade talks.