By Alexandra Alper and Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden on Wednesday said it was too soon to make commitments on lifting U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods, but his chief trade negotiator Katherine Tai was working on the issue.

“I’d like to be able to be in a position where I could say they’re meeting their commitments, or more of their commitments, and be able to lift some of them, but we’re not there yet,” Biden told a news conference at the White House.

He was referring to China’s commitments under a Phase 1 trade deal signed by his predecessor Donald Trump.

China has fallen far short of its pledge under the two-year Phase 1 trade agreement to buy $200 billion in additional U.S. goods and services during 2020 and 2021, and it remains unclear how the shortfall will be addressed.

Chinese purchases reached only about 60% of the target through November 2021, according to data compiled by the Peterson Institute for International Economics. The U.S. Census Bureau is expected to release December data next week.

Biden said he was aware that some business groups were clamoring for him to start unwinding U.S. tariffs of up to 25% imposed by Trump on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese imports, and that was why Tai was working on the issue.

But he said it was too soon to move forward given China’s failure to boost its purchases.

Shu Jueting, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Commerce, said on Thursday that removing U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods would help the global economic recovery especially at a time of high inflation.

“China has always believed the cancellation of imposed tariffs would be beneficial to China, the United States and the world,” Shu told a news conference.

China has said before it hopes the United States can create conditions to expand trade cooperation.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Writing by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Chris Reese, Cynthia Osterman and Kim Coghill)