President-elect Joe Biden said in an interview with the New York Times that he won't immediately remove the 25% tariffs on $234 billion worth of Chinese goods, but instead will reassess the situation and work with allies to pressure China to stop intellectual property abuses.

That would mean the U.S.-China trade war, which continues to weigh down U.S. agricultural exports, will not end when Biden takes office in January.

“I’m not going to make any immediate moves, and the same applies to the tariffs,” Biden told Times columnist Thomas Friedman.  “I’m not going to prejudice my options.”

China reacted to those U.S. tariffs – as well as the earlier U.S. tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum – by levying stiff retaliatory tariffs on almost all of U.S. agricultural exports, including almonds.

China, after signing the “phase one” trade pact with the U.S. earlier this year, began exempting its importers to allow them to buy U.S. soybeans, corn, wheat, sorghum, beef, pork, cotton and other commodities.  

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“The best China strategy, I think, is one which gets every one of our — or at least what used to be our — allies on the same page,” Biden said. “It’s going to be a major priority for me in the opening weeks of my presidency to try to get us back on the same page with our allies.”

Biden said he wants to work with allies to create a “coherent strategy” and the “goal would be to pursue trade policies that actually produce progress on China’s abusive practices — that’s stealing intellectual property, dumping products, illegal subsidies to corporations …”

One complication may be a recent decision by a World Trade Organization panel in favor of China. The panel ruled that the U.S. broke international trade rules by sidestepping the WTO dispute system when it hit China in 2018 with the tariffs. The U.S. has appealed the ruling, but the WTO appellate court has been effectively shut down because the U.S. continues to block the appointment of new judges.

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