President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that his administration is currently evaluating how to best move forward on existing tariffs on China enacted during the Trump administration, but he cautioned that no decision has been made.
Some experts and business groups have called on Biden to get rid of the tariffs as a way to combat inflation.
Asked by a reporter if he would drop the tariffs on China imposed by former President Donald Trump, Biden said, “We’re discussing that right now. We’re looking at what would have the most positive impact.”
When pressed whether he would lower or erase the tariffs, Biden said, “I didn’t say that. … I’m telling you we’re discussing it and no decision has been made on it.”
Earlier this month, the Biden administration took a first step toward conducting a statutory four-year review of the US tariffs on Chinese goods – but officials have given no indication that the review will result in removing the tariffs.
The Biden administration eased some Trump-era tariffs on Chinese imports in March. But Biden has left tariffs in place on $350 billion of Chinese goods that were imposed by his predecessor. And Beijing, meanwhile, has left its retaliatory tariffs on some agricultural products and some American-made goods.
The US and China reached a truce in 2020, with both sides agreeing not to add new tariffs. Beijing also agreed to increase its purchases of US goods and agricultural products. But China fell well short of its goal, buying only 57% of the US exports it had committed to purchasing by the end of 2021.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed later Tuesday that Biden is evaluating whether to ease additional sanctions against China, saying that she expects the administration will have more to say in the coming weeks.
She said during the White House press briefing that there continues to be “an ongoing review” of US tariffs on China and “we expect to do more.”
“He’s weighing new ones, yes, because it’s an ongoing process and there are more that are still in place,” Psaki said.
“We are continuing to review where it would be advantageous take steps that would help … increase wages and help certain industries that are impacted by these tariffs in a way that we don’t feel is effective,” she continued.
The President suggested earlier this year that he was leaving the tariffs in place because China had failed to meet its targets.
“I’d like to be able to be in a position where I can say they’re meeting the commitments, or more of their commitments, and be able to lift some of it. But we’re not there yet,” he said in January.
The US tariffs on China hit a wide range of Chinese-made goods and duties, making it more expensive for American businesses to import these goods from China. Many of these goods are not manufactured in the US at a pace that meets demand.
Pressure from the business community has been ramping up on the Biden administration to lift the tariffs as inflation has worsened. Easing tariffs could help alleviate some of the inflationary pressure facing importers.
In his speech on Tuesday preceding the questions about the tariffs, Biden outlined his administration’s efforts to combat inflation, which he cast as the “number one challenge facing families today.”
“I want every American to know that I am taking inflation very seriously and it is my top domestic priority,” Biden said.
He pointed to the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as two key drivers of the current situation, as consumers face 40-year-high inflation and the Consumer Price Index coming this Thursday is expected to reflect continued rising prices.
Biden’s remarks come a day after the Biden administration announced the US will lift a different set of Trump-instituted tariffs.
The US is temporarily lifting Ukrainian steel for a period of one year in a move aimed at helping the Ukrainian economy and sending a message of support as the country continues to resist Russia’s ongoing invasion.
This story has been updated with additional reporting.
CNN’s Katie Lobosco and Sam Fossum contributed to this report.