Sino-US trade talks yield tangible results
The specter of an all-out trade war between China and the US has been somewhat exorcized by the two rounds of high-level talks between the two countries. But despite the talks yielding some tangible results, some problems remain.
US media outlets, especially those opposed to US President Donald Trump and his policies, are saying China has won the "trade war", while some Chinese claim the US has won it.
Suffice it to say, there is no absolute winner in a trade war. The tit-for-tat policies, even the hovering policy threats, have hurt the two economies. Some imported fresh fruits piled up at ports have started to rot. High tariffs on imported steel and iron have raised the costs of many US manufacturers and construction companies. And the prices of rebar and other metals in the United States have risen by 15 to 20 percent.
The Chinese delegation to the talks has denied that it offered a $200 billion package to reduce the US' trade deficit with China, and made it clear the country remains committed to technology upgrading. As far as importing US agricultural products is concerned, they cost less and are of relatively good quality. And by importing more US agricultural products, China could meet the growing consumption needs of the Chinese people. In fact, all of China's decisions, including the one to increase imports, are aimed at deepening reform and opening-up.
Considering it is very difficult for the US to adjust its economic and manufacturing structure, the Trump administration is increasing its fiscal expenditure that, theoretically speaking, will increase its trade deficit. And since some political forces in the US have opposed Washington whenever it has tried to improve relations with Beijing, and given the importance of the US midterm elections in November, China is likely to be the target of some US politicians and media outlets.
But with the passage of time, those who are now demanding a tougher stance against China may start advising the financial and business communities to avoid a trade conflict with China.
Moreover, since China and the US are likely to have new trade disputes in the future, the two rounds of bilateral talks this month could be the beginning of lengthy negotiations. Still, the interactions between China and the US since the beginning of this year have some meaningful implications for bilateral trade and economic relations.
First, trade and economic relations remain the ballast of Sino-US ties. At nearly $600 billion, the Sino-US trade volume is one of the highest in the world, and the frequency of people-to-people exchanges between the two countries has increased with more nonstop flights and new routes being added. This means China and the US have an interdependent relationship, and any punitive action by one side will hurt both.
Second, the tit-for-tat policy will not reduce the trade imbalance. By accusing each other of implementing unfair policies, neither side will benefit. On the contrary, it will cause bilateral relations to deteriorate.
Third, since the US has put on hold its plan to impose sweeping tariffs on Chinese products, China, too, will not impose tariffs on a number of US products, including aircraft, soybean, cars, pork, wine, and fruits and nuts.
And fourth, finding the right way to reduce, if not totally eliminate, the trade imbalance will be beneficial for both sides, and raise overall market confidence.
The author is a research fellow at and director of the Division of American Economic Studies at the Institute of American Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.