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US will aggravate self-inflicted wounds by persisting with tariffs: China Daily editorial

China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-23 22:23
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The United States imposed 25 percent tariffs on $16 billion of Chinese goods on Thursday, forcing China to retaliate and impose tariffs on US goods of equal value.

The US move, although expected, does not bode well for the ongoing talks in Washington, in which the US delegation is supposedly seeking to find common ground with China.

Although US policymakers surely know that it is dialogue, not tariff-based pressure, that is only way to escape a destructive full-on trade war, the Donald Trump administration continues to promise further tariffs, perhaps believing it can bend Beijing to its will.

If so, it is a misperception that precludes a negotiated agreement.

Likewise, if the tariff attacks are intended to ultimately block all Chinese imports to the US and discourage US companies from outsourcing operations to Chinese territory - as part of a strategy in the bigger geostrategic rivalry the Trump administration envisions - then the talks are not going to produce any substantial outcome.

Whatever the intended ultimate aim, if the Trump administration continues to insist on sticking to its ideological guns, it is not going to be just China that feels the pain, US industries and consumers will increasingly become collateral damage as the caliber of the two countries' tariff exchanges increases.

In the hearings this week organized by the US Trade Representative's Office, many US enterprises have already expressed their strong opposition to the imposition of tariffs on Chinese goods. Economists have also warned that the tariffs will force consumers in the US to dig deeper and deeper into their pockets.

The US administration's tariffs have also put a big dent in the country's exports. Its agricultural and livestock exports to China, for example, slumped in June, down by 34.4 percent and 39.2 percent respectively year-on-year, according to the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

And according to data from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, net inward investment in the US by multinational corporations - both foreign and American - has fallen sharply.

In his inaugural address in January last year, Trump said his mission was to protect the US from "the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs" and declared, "protection will lead to great prosperity and strength".

The increasingly severe self-inflicted wounds are evidence to the contrary and are testimony to the reality that China-US trade has benefited both countries. If the two sides sort out some of the issues that have emerged, there is no reason why they cannot both continue to benefit from the trade.

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