He Weiwen: Trump won’t affect US-China trade ties


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He Weiwen: Trump won’t affect US-China trade ties


Source: Global Times    Published: 2016-11-21


US-China trade and business relationships will not be easily affected by the US presidential transition, though some challenges still loom and the two countries will need to work together on tackling divergence, experts said.

In the four decades since China and the US - the two largest economies in the world - formally established diplomatic relations, the fundamental basis for their diplomatic and trade relationship has been sound and stable, said He Weiwen, an executive council member at the China Society for the WTO. "No matter who is elected, this basis will not be altered, although there will be `break-in` period after a new president is elected," He told the Global Times Sunday.

Goods and services traded between the US and China reached $599.2 billion in 2015, according to the US Census Bureau. Exports from the US to China were $116 billion while imports from China were $483.2 billion, according to statistics.

The two countries are highly complementary in trade sectors, which explains the growing volume in the past decade, noted Sang Baichuan, director of the Institute of International Business at the University of International Business and Economics. "For instance, the US` high-end technology and services sectors have tangible advantages, which record increasing exports to China, and labor-intensive sectors in China remain attractive to some US industries," he told the Global Times on Monday.

US President-elect Donald Trump has claimed that he would impose trade tariffs on China while promising to bring jobs back from China and Mexico. However, his comments have been considered campaign rhetoric instead of actual policies.

The development pattern between China and the US will not be altered by one leader, or one party, as "those who do business with China are not in Washington DC but around the whole country," He said, noting that enterprises are the ones playing a major role in trading activities, not the government.

Keep in mind that campaign commentary is not government policy, James Zimmerman, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, told the Global Times on Monday.

Indeed, Trump will get absolutely nothing done and will create much uncertainty if he carries through with his campaign rhetoric on trade and China, noted Zimmerman. "The President-elect and his team will quickly realize that it`s important to work with China, given that our two economies are more and more interdependent and integrated."  

He also added that US policy toward China during the past four decades has been one of constructive engagement and global integration that has resulted in significant benefits to US businesses, workers and consumers.

Bumpy road

Although Trump`s upcoming presidency will not become a major setback in US-China business and trade relationships, experts warn that some difficulties still exist, which may create challenges for companies.

In general, about 70 to 80 percent of US campaign rhetoric becomes reality, but considered Trump`s lack of political experience, only 50 percent of his campaign rhetoric is likely to come into effect, Zhang Lin, a researcher at the Institute of World Economics and Politics at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday. "There are some divergences [between the two countries], especially in industries facing overcapacity, for example the steel industry," she said.

When Trump claimed that China had stolen their jobs, "it`s not true," He noted. "Take a look at what happened in 2009, when China`s export to the US largely slumped, the job numbers in US manufacturing also declined by about 130,000," he said.

"The problem is some middle- and low-income groups in the US are not benefiting from the growing relationship between the US and China, especially when those benefits are fully controlled by large multinational corporations," Sang said.

More cooperation

In terms of sensitive areas, China and the US should come up with cooperative measures instead of adopting isolation or coming into conflict with each other, He noted.

"In slashing overcapacity in the steel industries, the two countries could learn from the experience that China and EU had years ago in tackling arguments in the photovoltaic sector," He said.

Meanwhile, by pushing forward bilateral and multilateral dialogue mechanisms, more effort should be made in emphasizing the importance of free trade and globalization, Zhang noted. "It will surely contribute to a more sustainable global economic development," she said.

He Weiwen is a senior fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.