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The facts and China's position on China-US trade friction

China Daily | Updated: 2018-09-26 08:00
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5. The current US administration is violating its own commitments

Respect for rules and contract has been the foundation of the market economy and the international order since the advent of modern times. It makes cooperation between different individuals, groups and countries possible, which is a defining feature of civilized human society. The current US administration has turned its back on universally-recognized and widely-observed norms governing international relations, and made a series of moves in violation of its own commitments. The opportunism of the US toward international relations has been widely challenged and criticized by the international community. The short-sighted actions of the US in pursuit of short-term interests harm its international credibility, and will undermine its international standing and prejudice its strategic interests.

The US administration shows no respect for the sanctity of international agreements and disrupts global governance order. A country should uphold the commitments and agreements it has entered into regardless of government succession. This is essential for a country's credibility. Exaggerating problems in the multilateral system and differences between countries, the current US administration, unwilling to bear the cost of upholding the international order, has taken a selective approach to international rules. It has withdrawn from international organizations such as UNESCO and the UNHRC, pulled out from the TPP and the Paris Agreement that the previous US administration worked so hard to conclude, and is demanding renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and US-Korea Free Trade Agreement.

The global political and economic governance system has only become what it is through constant improvements, starting from the inception of the United Nations (UN), the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The WTO is an important multilateral trading regime with a total of over 160 members. It is essential to global trade cooperation, and is widely respected and recognized in the world. However, the US frequently violates WTO rules. The number of cases where members requested a suspension of the application of tariff concessions, or suspended tariff concession obligations to the US due to the latter's failure to comply with the rulings of the DSB, accounted for two thirds of all such cases between 1995 and 2015. 73

These actions of the US violate international contracts and disrespect its trading partners, and what is more, undermine its credibility as a country. The "Global Risks Report 2018" released by the World Economic Forum pointed out that global risks will intensify in 2018, as the US erodes multilateralism and blocks appointments to the WTO's appellate body.

The US administration has undermined the market mechanism through direct intervention in business operations. The current US administration has time and again overstepped its purview to directly meddle with market players. For instance, it has demanded that Apple and some other American companies move their overseas factories back to the US, regardless of market rules. The administration has also intimidated and obstructed American companies making investments abroad. For instance, on January 3, 2017, General Motors was threatened with a heavy border tax for continuing to make Chevrolet Cruze models in Mexico. 74 On July 3, 2018, Harley-Davidson was warned not to move part of its operation out of the US. 75 Executives of American companies have been named and shamed on social media, as the administration tightens supervision over normal merger deals under various pretexts.

The US administration has repeatedly backtracked and reneged on its commitments in bilateral trade negotiations. China sets great store by a stable China-US relationship. It has actively responded to the trade concerns of the US, especially since 2017. Multiple rounds of talks have been conducted with the US administration with utmost sincerity and patience, in an effort to narrow differences and solve problems. In response to a strong request from the US, China sent a delegation to the US for trade talks between late February and early March 2018. Yet on April 3, the US announced a 25 percent tariff on a list of Chinese exports worth US$50 billion. Despite this repeated backtracking and in the face of rising demands from the US, China has demonstrated complete sincerity in seeking a negotiated solution, and sat down for earnest consultations with a visiting US delegation in early May. At the US request, China sent another delegation to the US which actively responded to the US concerns in negotiations between 15 and 19 of May. Thanks to the strenuous efforts of both sides, a consensus was reached "not to fight a trade war", and a joint statement was released on May 19. However, only 10 days later, the US administration tore up the freshly inked joint statement and broke its promise not to engage in a trade war. It bypassed the dispute settlement system of the WTO to announce massive tariffs on Chinese exports, thus unilaterally starting a new phase of conflict.

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