Tensions over Taiwan, as well as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are likely topics for a call expected this week between President Joe Biden and China’s leader Xi Jinping, the White House said on Tuesday, but the US leader is unlikely to make a decision on lifting tariffs on Chinese goods before the two speak.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters that managing economic competition between the two countries would also be a focus of the call, which people familiar with the matter said was expected on Thursday.

It would be the fifth call between the leaders, and comes as China has delivered heightened warnings to the Biden administration about a possible visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to democratically governed Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory.

“Everything from the tensions over Taiwan, to the war in Ukraine, as well as how we better manage competition between our two nations, certainly in the economic sphere,” Kirby said of the topics to be discussed.

“This is a call that has been scheduled for a long time and there’s already a pretty robust agenda of things for these two leaders to talk about,” he said.

The administration has been debating whether to lift some tariffs on Chinese goods as a way to boost the US economy, but Kirby said a decision was not expected ahead of the call.

“[President Biden] wants a review of the tariffs that are in place to make sure that they are aligned with our strategic economic priorities, that they’re in our best national interests, and quite frankly, the best interests of the American people, but he hasn’t made a decision,” Kirby told reporters.

However, the senior official made clear that Biden is not happy with the tariffs, which slapped 25 per cent duties on billions of dollars of Chinese imports in retaliation for what the United States says are Beijing’s routinely unfair trade practices.

“We do believe … that the tariffs that were put in place by his predecessor were poorly designed. We believe that they’ve increased costs for American families and small businesses, as well as ranchers. And that’s, you know, without actually addressing some of China’s, China’s harmful trade practices,” Kirby said.

As for Pelosi’s plans, Kirby said the House speaker is in the line of succession to the presidency and as such, her overseas travel was a matter of US national security. But only she could make decisions about her travel.

“Bellicosity” in rhetoric from Beijing over the potential trip only escalates tensions, he said. “We find that unhelpful and certainly not in the least bit necessary given the situation,” he said.

Under its one-China policy, the United States does not have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but is bound by US law to provide the island with the means to defend itself. The White House has been quick to reiterate that stance has not changed despite speculation over a possible trip by Pelosi.

Source: South China Morning Post