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The Drums of Trade War
2018-04-25 10:59:00

RCIF | Research Center for International Finance

Policy discussion No. 2018.001

Apr.25 2018

 

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The Drums of Trade War

Yu Yongding

 

With Chinese President Xi Jinping willing to make some concessions to the US, the world may yet avoid a trade war. But the reason Sino-American relations have soured is the Trump administration's worldview, not external balances.

BEIJING – Last month, US President Donald Trump’s administration fired the opening salvo in what is quickly shaping up to become a full-blown trade war. While trade friction has long been an issue in the Sino-American relationship, few expected such an escalation, not least because economists widely view trade wars as damaging to all parties. So how did we get to this point, and can we turn back before it’s too late?


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According to the USTR report, the problem is that the policy tools the Chinese government is using to achieve the goals of Made in China 2025 “are largely unprecedented, as other WTO members do not use them.” Moreover, they “include a wide array of state intervention and support designed to promote the development of Chinese industry in large part by restricting, taking advantage of, discriminating against, or otherwise creating disadvantages for foreign enterprises and their technologies, products, and services.”

Yet the report fails to identify those interventions, which is not surprising, given that the State Council has not yet specified the policy tools it will use. And while America’s grievances regarding IPR issues are understandable, they could be addressed through the WTO. The fact that the Trump administration has taken the approach it has suggests that it does not merely want to ensure that China complies with existing rules; it wants to prevent China from catching up to the US technologically. This is obviously not acceptable to China.

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