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China Daily Global / 2021-01 / 14 / Page003

US Chamber calls for global engagement

By ZHAO HUANXIN in Washington | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-01-14 00:00

Citing trade conflict, top business organization chief wants Biden to restore country's role

A top business organization urged the incoming Biden administration to reengage the world and stabilize relations with China, while lifting tariffs that hurt companies and customers in the United States.

Thomas Donohue, chief executive officer of the US Chamber of Commerce, made the appeal in his annual State of American Business speech.

He said the US' economic future is tied to its global engagement.

Noting the country's resilience in recent years has been tested through trade wars and tariffs, Donohue stressed the need for the US to "reengage with the world through a bold trade agenda" to drive growth and prosperity.

The trade wars and tariffs did not seem to bring the results that the Trump administration had hoped for-closing the trade deficit with its major business partners.

According to figures released by the US commerce department last week, the US trade deficit surged to $68.1 billion in November, the highest monthly deficit in 14 years.

Donohue said the US needs to reaffirm its role in multinational organizations such as the World Trade Organization and the World Health Organization and "restore our credibility on the global stage".

He called for an end to the many tariffs enacted in recent years while underlining the importance of global outreach for the US economy, as 95 percent of the customers purchasing US products live beyond its borders.

Tariff barrier

And we must lift the tariffs that have hurt American manufacturers and farmers and have been paid by American companies and their customers," Donohue said.

The chamber executive's remarks were in contrast to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer's recent advice to Biden. According to a Wall Street Journal report, Lighthizer said the new administration should maintain all the tariffs on China and weaken the WTO so that it cannot overrule US policies.

In its 2021 Policy Priorities, the US chamber said it supports the pandemic response by lifting tariffs and other barriers to trade of medical supplies and will work with international partners to eliminate export restrictions.

As for China, Donohue followed the narrative of trade and policy hawks in Washington by calling the country "the biggest global challenge", but stressed that US-China relations should improve.

"We must work to stabilize the relationship through strength and cooperation," he said. "China is by far the largest, fastest-growing market for US companies. For the good of our own economy, and the world's, we have to seize these opportunities."

US-China relations have plunged to their lowest point since the two countries forged diplomatic relations 41 years ago.

John Allen, president of the Brookings Institution, said last week that Biden has a "real opportunity to turn the page on the relationship".

Donohue called on US Congress to support the US economy through the end of the pandemic and he anticipates a rebound in growth in the third quarter of this year.

"We won't restore the jobs, growth and prosperity that were lost in 2020, until we eradicate the pandemic and get our economy firing on all cylinders," he said. "And for that to happen, our elected officials must pull all the right policy levers-and push back against misguided proposals-in 2021."

Thomas Donohue

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