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Biden trade agenda includes tackling forced Uyghur labor in China

U.S. President Joe Biden steps off Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, on March 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) -- The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden will use "all available tools" to combat China's unfair trade practices and will prioritize addressing Beijing's forced labor program targeting Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said Monday.

    The administration "recognizes that China's coercive and unfair trade practices harm American workers, threaten our technological edge, weaken our supply chain resiliency, and undermine our national interests," the USTR said in its report outlining the president's trade policy agenda for this year.

    While noting that a review of U.S. trade policy toward China is under way, the report said the one-month-old administration is "committed to using all available tools to take on the range of China's unfair trade practices" including intellectual property theft, forced technology transfer and industrial subsidies.

    The report also called it "a top priority" to address the widespread human rights abuses of the Chinese government's forced labor program against the ethnic and religious minority groups in the far-western Xinjiang autonomous region and elsewhere in the country.

    "Americans and consumers around the world do not want products made with forced labor on store shelves, and workers should not be disadvantaged by competing with a state sponsored regime of systematic repression," the USTR said.

    The Biden administration will also work with allies and partners "to pressure the Chinese government to end its unfair trade practices and to hold China accountable," including for the human rights abuses perpetrated by its forced labor program, it said.

    The previous administration under President Donald Trump was often criticized for its go-it-alone approach, seen as alienating allies and undermining an effective global response to China.

    "Addressing the China challenge will require a comprehensive strategy and more systematic approach than the piecemeal approach of the recent past," the USTR said.

    The Biden administration will re-engage with international institutions such as the World Trade Organization and will also work with allies and like-minded trading partners to establish "high-standard global rules to govern the digital economy, in line with our shared democratic values," according to the report.

    As part of efforts to fight climate change, another priority issue for the administration, the report cited so-called carbon border adjustments, such as imposing fees on carbon-intensive imports, as a matter to be considered.

    Meanwhile, the Defense Department held its first meeting of a task force that will assess the Pentagon's policies on China, which has become more assertive in the region.

    The task force, joined by 20 civilian and military experts from across the department, will provide Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin with recommendations on how to meet the challenges posed by China, with the work to be completed in less than four months, according to the department.

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