Joe Biden Said He Would Scrap Trump’s China Tariffs. Or Did He?
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden appeared to indicate last week that he would lift tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump. But his position may be murkier than it initially seemed.
Here’s what happened. During an interview with NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro, Biden was asked whether he would “keep the tariffs” Trump imposed on Chinese-made goods. “No,” Biden responded, before adding that “we’re going after China in the wrong way.”
Lifting Trump’s tariffs would be a great idea, and Biden is absolutely correct that the tariffs have been ineffective in getting China to change its behavior. American importers, businesses, and consumers are paying an estimated $57 billion annually in higher costs due to the tariffs, and the only concession the trade war has won for the U.S. is a minor trade pact that neither Trump nor China’s leaders seem too keen on actually respecting.
So a promise to scrap the tariffs sounds like great news. Naturally, Biden’s campaign has pushed back against the idea that Biden meant to say what he said.
Biden aide: “His position is unchanged: he would re-evaluate the tariffs upon taking office. He was obviously responding to the notion that ‘Trump’s stance is a good one to counter China’s influence,'”
— Shawn Donnan (@sdonnan) August 6, 2020
Meanwhile, the Trump campaign has seized on the moment to declare that Biden “would surrender to China on trade.”
The story is complicated by the fact that Garcia-Navarro’s question was not very precise, and further complicated by Biden’s inarticulate response. Here’s the transcript of their exchange (emphasis mine):
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO: President Trump is not the first president to say China is ripping off the United States. President Obama made similar complaints. Some have said Trump’s stance is a good one to counter China’s influence. Would you keep the tariffs?
JOE BIDEN: No. Hey, look, who said Trump’s idea is a good one? Who said Trump’s idea is a good one?
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO: Some—
JOE BIDEN: Some. Two or three people. Manufacturing has gone in recession. Agriculture lost billions of dollars that taxpayers had to pay.
We’re going after China in the wrong way. China is stealing intellectual property. Chin
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