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US erring in trying to circumvent trade norms | Updated: 2018-01-21 19:57
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It will have come as no surprise to those keeping a watchful eye on the dynamics in the relations between the world's two largest economies that the current administration is claiming the United States made a mistake when it backed China's membership of the World Trade Organization.

In the latest sign of the Trump administration's unwillingness to embrace an open, market-orientated trade regime and instead promote its own frontier justice to protect its competitive advantage, it said in the annual report to Congress on China's compliance with WTO commitments that "it seems clear that the United States erred in supporting China's entry into the WTO". By making such as claim, the US is willfully ignoring the fact that in the 16 years since it was admitted as a member, China has revised hundreds of domestic laws and regulations to bring them in line with WTO rules, reduced its tariffs and non-tariff trade barriers, and adjusted its trade-related regulatory policies. The substantial moves it promised and has taken to open up its market have greatly benefited the US — from its leading companies to individual farmers and consumers.

However, under the WTO framework for settling trade disputes, the US cannot act high-handedly when it comes to trade disputes with China. As a result, it has many times hinted it will quit the WTO so it can use its own trade measures against China and other trade partners.

Such an imperious way of dealing with its trade competitors would not only be dangerous for the normal workings of global trade, it would also fail to address the shortcomings that are the root of the US' unease about its ability to see off the competition that has emerged in the last decade.

Trump has said he hopes there will not be a trade war with China, "but if there is, there is."

If there is, he will not be able to so easily dismiss the consequences of what is not such a foregone conclusion.

President Xi Jinping urged Trump to come to the table on economic issues when he spoke to him by phone last week.

"The two countries should adopt constructive means to properly settle economic and trade issue of mutual concern through opening up markets to each other and making the cake of cooperation bigger," Xinhua News Agency quoted Xi as saying.

Cooperation rather than confrontation would certainly benefit the US more.

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