Source: Global Times Published: 2018-4-25
The forthcoming visit of top US economic advisers to China represents a good attempt on the part of the Trump administration to bring China-US trade relations back on track.
But experts said that if US President Donald Trump does not change his plan to target the Made in China 2025 initiative and continues to pursue trade unilateralism, the negotiations would not lead to "a truce," and China will "fight to the end" under those circumstances.
"China welcomes the US visit to discuss trade issues. Unilateralism can never solve trade and economic issues between China and the US," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said on Wednesday. He also urged the US to provide evidence of alleged Chinese violations of WTO rules, if any.
The comments come after the Washington Post reported that Trump would send several of his top economic advisers to China next week for talks to ease trade tensions, after the world`s two largest economies have been locked in a tit-for-tat tariff dispute for several weeks. The delegation will reportedly include US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
Trump said Tuesday that China and the US "have a very good chance of making a deal," during a meeting with visiting French President Emmanuel Macron. But if negotiations fail to reach a consensus, the proposed US tariffs on as much as $150 billion worth of Chinese products would proceed as planned, he said.
He Weiwen, an executive council member of the China Society for World Trade Organization Studies, told the Global Times on Wednesday that there is some room for both sides to reach a framework for talks during this trip.
"China is willing to work with the US to strengthen intellectual property rights protection under WTO rules. China is in the process of further opening up its market, which is exactly what the US expects," He said, "this is a good foundation for a dialogue."
China`s counter-measures to US tariffs have already affected US firms and farmers, exerting pressure on the US government to prevent an all-out trade war.
As an aftermath of escalating China-US trade frictions, China`s imports of US soybeans in March declined 27 percent year-on-year to 3.1 million tons, data released by the General Administration of Customs showed, while soybeans imports from Brazil soared 33.3 percent to 2.33 million tons.
"The visit is a positive sign from the US - which initiated the war - to repair trade relations with China," said Bai Ming, deputy director of the Ministry of Commerce`s International Market Research Institute.
Word of caution
Bai cautioned that the negotiations may stall if the US does not show sincerity at the negotiating table, as the US` ultimate goal for a trade standoff with China is to force China to alter its Made in China 2025 strategy.
"Trump fears China`s ambitious plan would quickly see Chinese firms take the lead in the advanced manufacturing sector … China welcomes the participation of US companies in the initiative but the US cannot interfere in China`s right to develop, and that is the bottom line," He said.
China would never make a concession on its commitment to a multilateral trade mechanism, experts said.
Adding uncertainty to the negotiations was Lighthizer on the trip, who has issued tough statements on trade issues involving China, experts said. The Wall Street Journal quoted officials as saying that the White House fears Mnuchin would adopt a softer approach to China than what Trump is willing to accept.
But experts stressed that China is prepared for either negotiations or counter-measures.
"Whether a trade war or negotiations, if the US will use it to make China compromise, we will fight to the end," Bai stressed.
He Weiwen is a senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.