Source: Global Times Published: 2018-7-26
China on Thursday voiced support for an agreement reached by the US and the EU to put new tariffs on hold while officials negotiate a potential trade deal, but urged the US and the EU to adhere to WTO rules and nondiscrimination principles in any bilateral deal.
However, pointing to the lack of concrete details in the truce deal, Chinese experts raised doubts that the US and the EU could reach a permanent deal in the near future and join hands against China, given fundamental differences between US President Donald Trump and European leaders on trade.
Following a meeting between Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the White House on Wednesday, the US and the EU agreed to work together toward zero tariffs and zero subsidies on industrial goods and resolve trade differences through talks, according to a statement on the White House website.
Asked about the US-EU deal at a press briefing on Thursday, Gao Feng, a spokesperson for China's Ministry of Commerce, said that China maintains a "positive attitude" toward any constructive, transparent bilateral deal as long as it is in line with WTO rules.
But in a more direct comment on the same day, Geng Shuang, a spokesperson for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said, "We also hope that relevant efforts and measures by the US and the EU would adhere to multilateral trade principles such as nondiscrimination principles."
As part of the truce deal, the US and the EU also agreed to work together to reform the WTO and address unfair trading practices, including intellectual property theft and forced technology transfer, which Trump and some European officials have accused China of engaging in.
"The EU has long sided with the US over these issues at the WTO. There is nothing new here," He Weiwen, a former economic and commercial counselor at the Chinese consulates in San Francisco and New York, told the Global Times on Thursday.
He said that if the EU and the US address their differences and join hands against China, "then Trump could no doubt focus more on China, but this is a deal on making a deal later, there are so many uncertainties."
Mei Xinyu, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said that the EU and the US are unlikely to reach any permanent deal under Trump because "they have some fundamental differences" over trade.
"This looks like a temporary move for Trump to shut down rising domestic criticism of his unilateral actions," Mei told the Global Times, pointing to a lack of details in key areas such as automobile tariffs.
He said that the deal could be described as a win for Trump because he did not give up anything, while the EU offered to buy soybeans and liquefied natural gas from the US, potentially helping ease pains Chinese tariffs caused US farmers.
"But that is just an offer. It would take a long time, possibly years, for the EU to actually buy these things," he said.
Experts also noted that the deal between the EU and the US does not exclude cooperation between the EU and the China. At a summit in Beijing in July, Chinese and European leaders agreed to expand bilateral trade and investment and oppose unilateralism and protectionism.
US and European media, including the Guardian, Washington Post, USA Today, and Deutsche Welle, also doubt the credibility of the deal reached by the US and the EU so far, said that the deal has no concrete detail and any timetable, and nothing real was announced.
He Weiwen is a senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.