Alarm bell ring­ing due to Trump’s new pick on trade

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

Be­cause it is so emo­tion­ally charged, pop­ulism can be eas­ily guided for a pur­pose. One ex­am­ple of this is the cam­paign rhetoric of Don­ald Trump about how for­eign­ers have “raped” the United States by “steal­ing” many of its man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs. At the time, many Chi­nese were will­ing to laugh away such ac­cu­sa­tions against China as just more of the usual rhetoric — though more ex­treme — that has come to char­ac­ter­ize pres­i­den­tial elec­tions in the US. Now, how­ever, there is real cause for con­cern as the pres­i­dent-elect has named econ­o­mist Peter Navarro, known for his anti-China alarmism, as his trade ad­viser.

Trump in a state­ment an­nounc­ing the ap­point­ment of Navarro as head of a newly cre­ated White House Na­tional Trade Coun­cil, praised the clar­ity of Navarro’s ar­gu­ments. Which is per­haps not that sur­pris­ing given the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia-Irvine pro­fes­sor was the mas­ter­mind of the rhetoric Trump adopted dur­ing his cam­paign, and it had a sim­i­lar tone to the apoc­a­lyp­tic lan­guage Navarro has used when ac­cus­ing China of wip­ing out Amer­i­can man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs and wag­ing what he claims is an eco­nomic war against the US.

His ap­point­ment is an­other sign of the con­fronta­tional ap­proach the in­com­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion seems in­tent on tak­ing in re­la­tions with China.

It is an in­dis­putable fact that China has not stolen jobs from the old man­u­fac­tur­ing towns in the US, for those jobs were taken else­where by US com­pa­nies who found that US con­sumers weren’t will­ing to pay the price for made-in-Amer­ica prod­ucts.

A point that was high­lighted again on Tues­day in a Bloomberg re­port, which said Amer­i­can-made Macs have be­come an “al­ba­tross” for Ap­ple since it started as­sem­bling them in the US in 2013 to “score po­lit­i­cal points” and some en­gi­neers are now push­ing to move pro­duc­tion “back to Asia”.

And the so-called eco­nomic war Navarro claims China is wag­ing is the com­pe­ti­tion that has risen as China’s econ­omy has moved up the value chain. In­deed the rev­e­la­tions of Ed­ward Snow­den showed that it is the US that has been us­ing un­fair means to gain an eco­nomic ad­van­tage.

That in­di­vid­u­als such as Navarro who have a bias against China are be­ing picked to work in lead­ing po­si­tions in the next ad­min­is­tra­tion, is no laugh­ing mat­ter. The new ad­min­is­tra­tion should bear in mind that with eco­nomic and trade ties between the world’s two largest economies now the clos­est they have ever been, any move to dam­age the win-win re­la­tion­ship will only re­sult in a loss for both sides.

Still, Chi­nese com­pa­nies in the US should be on high alert to a more dif­fi­cult busi­ness cli­mate.

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