China is warning about the possible effects of a trade war with the United States.
The warning comes as the world’s two biggest economies take steps to improve relations under the presidency of Donald Trump.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang spoke to news reporters earlier this week in Beijing. He talked about reasons for the two countries to have good relations. He said he was optimistic about ties, but warned that a trade war would hurt American businesses.
“We do not want to see any trade war breaking out between the two countries,” Li said.
“That would not make our trade fairer and would harm both sides. Our hope on the Chinese side is that no matter what bumps the China-U.S. relationship hits, we hope it will continue to move forward in a positive direction.”
Recently, Chinese state media have been publishing many stories in support of Li’s position on trade. Some have noted that Trump’s businesses would grow as a result of better economic relations with China.
One opinion piece noted the many business interests The Trump Organization has in China. The comments were published in the Communist Party-supported Global Times newspaper. The comments noted the Chinese government’s “preliminary approval” of more than 30 Trump trademarks. Observers were surprised at the approval of so many trademark requests at one time.
The requests involved businesses such as golf clubs, hotels and restaurants.
The Global Times report agreed with Li that American businesses would suffer if there was a trade war. It said “Trump’s position as U.S. president would not (protect) his business(es) from a trade war with China.” It said his businesses would be harmed just as any other American company would be if relations worsened.
The report said Trump’s political skills will be tested by how he works to keep his promise to put “America First” while keeping good relations with China.
During the 2016 election campaign and since he took office, Trump has strongly criticized China. This has worried Chinese officials. Trump has talked about many issues, including trade, China’s activities in the South China Sea and China’s relations with North Korea.
But China is most worried about his threats to name it as a currency manipulator and to require large taxes on Chinese exports to the United States. He has not taken those actions yet. But in April, the U.S. Treasury Department will release a report on currency actions.
This all worries Chinese officials even though the two nations are opening contacts with one another. There were reports this week that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jin-Ping could meet in early April. On Saturday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will make his first trip to Beijing.
This week, Acting Assistant Secretary of State Susan Thornton told CNBC television that Tillerson would talk about fair trade.
“While we have a very important economic relationship with China, it hasn’t been a level playing field vis-à-vis U.S. companies and U.S. interests,” Thornton said. “We are going to be insisting that there be fair trade measures that be put in place and that be observed and implemented.”
Last year, the U.S. trade deficit with China was $347 billion. That was only a little less than the trade deficit in 2015.
Li told reporters that China would continue to open up its economy. He said American companies and others were already benefiting.
“We may have different statistical methods, but I believe whatever differences we may have, we can always sit down and talk to each other, and work together to reach consensus,” Li said. He said trade and investment between the two countries created more than one million jobs in the United States last year.
I’m Caty Weaver.
Words in This Story
optimistic – adj. having or showing hope for the future; expecting good things to happen
bump – n. something that slows the progress of a plan or relationship (often used figuratively in American English)
trademark – n. something (such as a word) that identifies a particular company's product and cannot be used by another company without permission
currency manipulator – n. a country that takes part in currency intervention or foreign exchange market intervention by putting in place a monetary policy in which the government or the central bank buys or sells foreign currency in exchange for their own domestic currency, usually to influence the exchange rate
level playing field – n. a state in which conditions in a competition or situation are fair for everyone
vis-à-vis – preposition in relation to; with regard to
insist – v. to demand that something happen or that someone do something
implement – v. to begin to do or use (something, such as a plan); to make (something) active or effective
statistical – adj. relating to numbers that represent a piece of information (such as information about how often something is done, how common something is, etc.)
consensus – n. a general agreement about something; an idea or opinion that is shared by all the people in a group