Over the course of his presidency, Donald Trump raised US tariffs on imports from China several times, from an average of about 3% when he took office in January 2017 to over 20% by the end of 2019.

As a result, the current average US tariff on Chinese goods is essentially at the same level that the United States imposed on the rest of the world in the early 1930s under the Smoot-Hawley Act, a protectionist measure that many economists blame for the severity of the Great Depression.

Now that President Joe Biden is reversing many of Trump’s policies, including import tariffs on European goods, he has to decide whether to rescind his predecessor’s China tariffs, too. Biden will not do so for the benefit of Chinese workers or firms, not least because he needs to protect himself from accusations of being too soft toward America’s main global rival.

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