US accuses China of failing to meet commitments to free trade but UK government seeks closer ties

Thu 17 Feb 2022
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

us china

The US has accused China of failing to meet the commitments it agreed to towards free trade when President Trump was in the White House.

In a report on Chinese compliance with WTO rules, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said that China continues to:

  • use subsidies and regulations to favour its own companies
  • flood world markets with cheap products
  • force companies to hand over technology to access to Chinese markets

‘Non-market approach’

AP News reports USTR Katherine Tai’s comments that China has “retained and expanded its state-led, non-market approach to the economy and trade” in a challenge to the premise of the WTO’s rules.

China “feels no need to conform to global norms,” the report adds.

Phase 1 deal

President Trump levied tariffs on about $360bn worth of Chinese imports to the US, which President Joe Biden is still imposing, reports Al Jazeera.

Trump reached a ’phase 1’ trade agreement in January 2020 that saw China promise to buy $200bn more US goods, including farm exports, in return for an easing of sanctions.

However, GTR reports findings from the Peterson Institute for International Economics which show that China has bought only 57% of the US exports it had committed to purchase.

Patchy record

Under the deal, some sectors have flourished, while others have barely reached pre-deal levels of trade.

Exports of medical supplies reached 134% of the target, and US exports of semiconductors and manufacturing equipment hit 129% and 145% of the target respectively.

However, China only bought 39% of its target for US automobiles, trucks and parts, while aircrafts, engines and parts fared even worse, at just 18% of the target.


The Peterson Institute report finds that the deal did little to reduce the uncertainty that political tensions between the countries have created, discouraging the business investment needed to restart US exports.

It describes it as “problematic, if not unrealistic” from the start.

UK wants to trade

The UK is said to be looking to pursue closer trade ties with China, according to Politico, with Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak keen to restart forums to discuss economic relations and trade.

However, multiple Tory MPs have raised concerns about China’s human rights record, the Guardian reports.

Although Johnson angered China in 2020 by banning Chinese company Huawei from involvement in Britain’s 5G network, he now wants to develop trade to support British jobs.