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CHINADAILY Editorial

As the only right choice, trade talks welcome: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-09-13 21:55

The US' invitation to China to restart trade talks suggests the Donald Trump administration has changed its idea about settling trade disputes. But the decision is more likely based on its realization that the damage inflicted on domestic industries and consumers by the Trump-ignited tariff war would become unbearable, so it's better to use nondestructive means to settle the trade disputes with China.

If that is the case, the US move holds promise. But this promise could be deceptive.
While announcing that US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had sent the invite to senior Chinese officials, Larry Kudlow, White House's top economic adviser, said on Wednesday: "I think most of us think it's better to talk than not to talk, and I think the Chinese government is willing to talk."

But then came the rider, as Kudlow said: "I guarantee nothing."

It is indeed rare for a responsible official to issue such a caution. Especially, after the Aug 22-23 talks between midlevel Chinese and US officials ended without any agreements.

After imposing high tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods, the United States threatened to slap tariffs on another $200 billion of Chinese imports. If that too did not force China to accept its demands, the US said, it would make preparations to impose high tariffs on an additional $267 billion of Chinese goods.

But then suddenly the US administration changed tack. Perhaps the opposition of a large number of US enterprises to the high tariffs on imports at the late August public hearings on the Section 301 tariff list prompted the Trump administration to reconsider its unilateral and protectionist tariff policies.

According to an AmCham China and AmCham Shanghai survey covering more than 430 US companies operating in China, most of the respondents said the Sino-US trade friction would have a far-reaching negative impact on their businesses, with rising costs being their top concern.
China's stance has always been consistent. It knows full well talks are the best and only way to resolve bilateral disputes. Still, it will not hesitate to take countermeasures against US tariffs to safeguard China's interests.

China welcomes and, more importantly, is serious about the trade talks. And it would like to believe the Trump administration is equally serious about resolving the trade disputes through talks.

But the Trump administration should not be mistaken that China will surrender to the US demands. It has enough fuel to drive its economy even if a trade war is prolonged.

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