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Prof. ST Hsieh

Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum


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GT Voice: US’ reported trade moves against China don’t bode well for anyone

By Global Times Published: Feb 15, 2022 09:06 PM

China-US Photo:Xinhua

While US officials are continuing talks with Chinese officials, their patience are running out “after months of talks on shortfalls in the so-called phase-one trade agreement,” and are considering next steps on how to respond, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter. 

Over the past several months, there have been endless US media reports claiming that the Biden administration was considering potential measures against China, including launching a Section 301 investigation into China’s industrial policies, restricting outbound investment in Chinese assets and imposing curbs on Chinese apps. Bloomberg also repeated those potential moves in the report on Tuesday, suggesting a Section 301 probe could result in more tariffs on Chinese products. 

If Washington resorts to these moves, it would be a serious further escalation of the trade conflict between the world’s two biggest economies, which certainly doesn’t bode well for anyone – the US, China or the entire world. The mounting losses of US businesses and surging costs for US consumers due to the US’ tariff war should be sufficient evidence. Many US business groups have filed lawsuits against the US government over the tariffs.

When the phase one trade agreement signed two years ago, many around the world pinned hopes on the deal to help deescalate trade tension between China and the US, which were hurting the global economy. However, over the past two years, US media outlets have repeatedly accused China of failing to live up to its commitments, while turning a blind eye to robust growth in China’s imports of US agricultural and other products and China’s efforts to overcome the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the disrupted supply chains in the US and around the world.

In a bizarre and dangerous sign, if the reports are accurate, the US now appears poised to use the phase one deal to further step up the trade fight against China instead of defusing tension and changing its toxic trade policies that hurt others as well as itself. 

It should be noted that the phase one trade agreement was signed by the two sides and thus any matter concerning the agreement should be settled by the two through consultation. The assessment of the implementation of the deal must be made by both countries, not the US alone.

The phase one agreement was signed before the pandemic, and it goes without saying that how the pandemic has affected global industrial chains, supply chains and logistics networks. The pandemic and harsh weather conditions also hit various US sectors such as agriculture and energy, not to mention Washington’s arbitrary restrictions on export of certain products to China.

If the Biden administration sincerely wants to implement the phase one agreement, it should be working with China, instead of making lurid accusations and irrational threats. If it wants China to increase purchase of US products, it should loosen restrictions on exports to China and roll back its tariffs on Chinese goods instead of threatening to impose more tariffs and erect more hurdles. 

Finally, Washington should be clear by now after its multi-year trade war that China will not be pressured or forced into making unreasonable concessions on matters of core national interests and any illegal US move that hurts Chinese interests will be met with appropriate responses. Our hope is that the two countries will not come to that and will instead be able to find a sensible way forward – for the sake of both countries and the world.

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