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IMF calls for calm amid exchanges of trade salvos

By Chen Weihua in Washington | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-03-21 11:02
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Fund director Lagarde warns against 'inward-looking' policies

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), speaks during a news conference in Asuncion, Paraguay, March 14, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]

The International Monetary Fund chief is calling on countries to keep calm as relations between the US and its trading partners, especially China, are simmering.

A statement issued on Tuesday by IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde came amid widespread concerns that the Trump administration is about to impose up to a $60 billion punitive tariff annually on China for its intellectual property policies and practices, as well as Trump's recent orders to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports in the name of national security.

"I joined others in reiterating that we should avoid the temptation of inward-looking policies and, rather, work together to reduce trade barriers and resolve trade disagreements without resorting to exceptional measures," Lagarde said in the statement issued at the end of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Her message is viewed as directed at the United States, although she did not name the country. She had previously warned about growing protectionism in the Trump administration, although she did not provide specific names.

Frank Lavin, an undersecretary for international trade in the US Commerce Department from 2005 to 2007, described Trump as someone "who came from an environment where being provocative or disruptive has some benefits".

He said maybe it worked in Trump's real estate business, but doesn't when the parties seek a normal relationship.

"But he has an old habit," Lavin said on Tuesday at a talk at the Heritage Foundation.

Lavin, who is chairman and CEO of Export Now, said he hopes China and the US can "avoid any kind of trade war, trade conflict".

"And historically that tended to be the case," said Lavin, who also served in the Reagan administration. He added that there have been occasional tariffs and points of friction, but they have not been systemic in the long term.

"So I certainly hope we can stay in that spirit," he said.

Lavin said that the Trump administration has not been clear on specific issues that the Chinese side should address.

Premier Li Keqiang pledged in Beijing on Tuesday that his country will take measures to further reduce tariff barriers, protect intellectual property rights and cut red tape for businesses.

Lavin believes measures to reduce tariffs and address inefficiencies on the Chinese side should not be seen as a concession, because they do hurt Chinese consumers and the economy.

Trump's tariffs have raised concerns among US farmers of a possible trade war. Many US trade partners have implied that US agricultural exports will be a key casualty if a trade war or tit-for-tat action occurs.

In a tweet on Tuesday, which was National Agriculture Day, Trump praised farmers, saying, "We are proud of them, and we are delivering for them!"

Farmers for Free Trade, a non-profit campaign of farmers and ranchers in several US agricultural states, launched an ad campaign last week on major TV networks pleading for Trump to protect free trade policies.

At a Senate hearing on March 14, US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue expressed concerns over a trade war, saying that agricultural goods are the "tip of the spear" in any type of trade retaliation. He said he hoped that the Trump administration "can mollify those and not move into and escalate into a trade war where agriculture will be damaged".

"It's not a hit family farmers can take right now," said US Senator Jon Tester of Montana.

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