President Joe Biden’s trade chief said she’s “quite sympathetic” to the European Union’s decision to investigate Chinese imports of subsidized electric vehicles, saying the US experienced similar competition in the solar panels industry two decades ago.
“Global trade today is not happening on a level playing field,” US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said via video conference during an Atlantic Council forum in Berlin on Friday. “There are things that we market-based democratic economies need to do in order to defend — to defend our interests and to defend this space to have fair and free trade.”
The EU’s executive arm launched the probe last week. It could take up to nine months and will probably lead to new EU tariffs on Chinese EV imports and embroil major non-European automakers like Tesla Inc., which produce cars in China for export to the 27-nation bloc.
The investigation, as well as aggressive moves by Washington to counter China, are part of a broader rethink by governments in developed economies to bring production closer to home, especially for key sectors like semiconductors, pharmaceuticals and heavy industries, which were disrupted during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a wide-ranging interview, Tai said that the US and EU are working hard ahead of an October deadline to negotiate an agreement on clean steel, and that she’s hopeful for progress in the next six weeks.
Tai also said that her agency is aiming to finish by year end a review of tariffs on more than $300 billion in Chinese goods that President Donald Trump imposed in 2018 and Biden has kept in place.