Trade friction between the U.S. and China have continued apace, with the U.S. imposing an additional round of tariffs worth $200 billion and China responding with $60 billion in tariffs on U.S. goods.
Despite attempts at dialogue, tensions have only increased throughout the year, as the U.S. has now imposed a total of $250 billion in tariffs on Chinese products. The most recent round imposes a 10% tariff on 5,745 tariff lines, with the rate increasing to 25% as of Jan. 1, 2019, according to the United States Trade Representative’s office.
Unsurprisingly, the rhetoric surrounding the issue has intensified, too.
This week, China released a white paper offering its point of view on the trade conflict, noting the U.S.-China trade relationship is of “great significance for the two countries as well as for the stability and development of the world economy.”
The paper cites a number of mechanisms that have been used to engender communication — the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, and the Comprehensive Economic Dialogue — but argues trade tensions are by nature inevitable because of the respective development of the two nations’ economies.
“China and the US are at different stages of development,” the paper states. “They have different economic systems. Therefore some level of trade friction is only natural. The key however lies in how to enhance mutual trust, promote cooperation, and manage differences.”
However, after citing positives, like the aforementioned venues for communication on trade and significant growth in two-way trade in recent decades (exhibiting “strong complementarity,” the paper argues), the paper moves on to criticize the U.S.’s recent trade actions and policy under the Trump administration.
“Since taking office in 2017, the new administration of the US government has trumpeted ‘America First,'” the paper states. “It has abandoned the fundamental norms of mutual respect and equal consultation that guide international relations. Rather, it has brazenly preached unilateralism, protectionism and economic hegemony, making false accusations against many countries and regions – particularly China – intimidating other countries through economic measures such as imposing tariffs, and attempting to impose its own interests on China through extreme pressure.”
Last year, the U.S. launched a Section 301 investigation of Chinese trade practices, including alleged forced technology transfer. In a statement announcing the most recent $200 billion tariff salvo, President Trump reiterated previous comments regarding China’s trade practices.
“For months, we have urged China to change these unfair practices, and give fair and reciprocal treatment to American companies,” the statement said. “We have been very clear about the type of changes that need to be made, and we have given China every opportunity to treat us more fairly. But, so far, China has been unwilling to change its practices.”
Following the imposition of the new tariffs, talks that were expected to be had by the end of the month were called off by China on Saturday, CNN reported.
“There is no scheduled US-China negotiation at the moment,” a senior White House official told CNN. “That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t happen.”
The white paper also argued the invocation of Section 232 to impose steel and aluminum tariffs abused the concept of national security.
“It is self-evident that steel and iron are basic raw materials for manufacturing, and automobiles are ordinary consumer goods,” the paper argues. “It is absurd to link them to ‘national security.'”
Wang Shouwen, China’s deputy trade negotiator, put China’s perspective in stark terms during a news conference Tuesday, quoted in another CNN report as asking, “How could you negotiate with someone when he puts a knife on your neck?”
For now, it does not appear as if trade tensions between the countries will abate anytime soon.
The full text of the white paper can be found here.