President Biden intends to speak Thursday with Chinese President Xi Jinping as he weighs rolling back former President Donald Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods, according to multiple reports.
Biden most recently spoke with Xi in March. Before that, the men convened a three-and-a-half hour virtual summit in November — despite continued uncertainty about whether first son Hunter Biden still holds a 10% stake in Chinese government-linked investment fund BHR Partners.
Biden aides have been studying whether relaxing Trump’s tariffs could reduce consumer prices and reduce the worst inflation since 1981, which has caused Biden’s approval rating to plunge to as low as 33%.
US tariff rates on goods from China currently stand at about 19.3% — as opposed to about 3% on goods imported from other countries, according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
Trump imposed the tariffs in a bid to force a trade deal to reduce what he argued were unfair practices by Beijing, including state support for businesses. In January 2020, Trump and the Chinese government reached a “phase one” trade deal to pause the escalating fight.
It’s unclear if Biden would require any concessions from China if he axes the Trump-era tariffs.
Although Trump’s tariffs alarmed some free-trade conservatives, who said they were a tax on consumers, more Republicans have argued for a more forceful approach toward China since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump, who is teasing a possible 2024 rematch against Biden, said Friday at a rally in Arizona that if he retakes power, he would “hold China accountable for unleashing the virus upon the world — it probably costs $50 trillion.”
The handling of US-China relations is poised to be a flashpoint in the next presidential election, with Republicans pushing harsher policies to penalize Beijing for fentanyl exports, which contributed to a record more than 100,000 US drug overdose deaths last year.
Biden will speak with Xi as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) prepares to visit Taiwan next month, despite Chinese warnings not to.
The first family has profited from business with Chinese government-linked entities on at least two separate occasions.
Joe Biden allegedly was involved with his son’s dealings with CEFC China Energy, which the Washington Post reported paid Hunter Biden and first brother Jim Biden $4.8 million in 2017 and 2018. Former Hunter Biden business partner Tony Bobulinski says that he spoke with Joe Biden in May 2017 about the venture.
A May 13, 2017, email indicated that the “big guy” would get a 10% equity stake in a corporate entity established with CEFC. Bobulinski alleges that the president was the “big guy.”
Emails also show that in September 2017, Hunter Biden asked for a new sign and more keys to an office he was renting in DC’s House of Sweden office building. The sign was to say, “The Biden Foundation and Hudson West (CEFC-US)” and the keys were for his father, Jill and Jim Biden, and a Chinese executive named Gongwen Dong. A spokeswoman for the agency that oversees the property said, however, that the sign was never changed and the keys were not picked up.
Also, Hunter Biden cofounded an investment firm called BHR Partners in 2013, less than two weeks after flying with his father to Beijing aboard Air Force Two. Hunter introduced Joe Biden to BHR CEO Jonathan Li in the lobby of a hotel in China’s capital. The fund is controlled in part by state-owned entities and facilitated the 2016 sale for $3.8 billion of a Congolese cobalt mine from a US company to the firm China Molybdenum. Cobalt is a key component in electric car batteries.
Hunter Biden’s attorney Chris Clark said less than a week after President Biden’s November summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping that the first son divested a 10% stake in BHR Partners. Hunter Biden and the White House provided no further details on who may have acquired his stake and for how much money.
Last month, the Daily Mail published a 2018 voicemail in which Joe Biden mentioned a New York Times article about his son’s Chinese business partner — casting further doubt on his 2019 claim that he had “never spoken” with Hunter Biden about “his overseas business dealings.”