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Trade fight is seen as threat to Asia-Pacific

By KONG WENZHENG in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-10-09 23:42

The US-China trade conflict is putting economic integration and cooperation at risk not only between the two countries but in the wider Asia-Pacific region, an expert said at a university forum.

Such integration has been “a major force for peace” historically, as exemplified by productive transnational supply chains developed in East Asia and across the Pacific, Thomas J. Christensen, former US deputy assistant secretary of state, said in a keynote speech at the US-China Relations Conference at Columbia University on Sunday.

He also said that those supply chains have been producing wealth for hundreds of millions of people.

In recent months, the Trump administration has imposed tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports, and Congress has initiated stricter reforms at the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).

“Because of the anti-trade and anti-globalization stream in American politics, I don’t see a solution in the near term. I think it is a shame, as these are solvable problems,” Christensen said.

“I believe if there are integrated economies, and if there’s rules to protect firms along with the integration, we’d both be better off — it’s not a zero-sum game,” he said.

The ties between the American and Chinese economies were the foundation of a stabilized bilateral relationship, according to Huang Yasheng, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, who studies political economy.

Huang defined trade and investment between China and the US as “stabilizing pillars”.

“In the past, we used to benefit from those pillars. Now, all these pillars are undermined substantially,” he said.

While the professor recognized that problems exist between the two countries, Huang said tariffs that undermine those pillars are not the answer.

“They are harmful even for the US. The worst part of tariffs is that it’s hard to control the impact. They can ignore the restrictions of time and geological boundaries,” Huang said.

While China does have areas where reforms and improvement are needed, experts recognized the nation’s commitment in areas such as IP protection, noting it is in the interest of both countries to see China address such issues.

The two countries had conducted trade negotiations in June and August with those issues on the agenda, but no substantial agreements were reached.

Cui Tiankai, Chinese ambassador to the US, said in an interview with National Public Radio last week that the negotiating process has been confusing for the Chinese side.

“The US position keeps changing all the time, so we don’t know exactly what the US would want as priorities,” Cui told NPR.

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