Anti-trade rhetoric in US pres­i­den­tial cam­paign a deep con­cern

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - Chen Weihua Con­tact the writer at chen­weiua@chinadailyusa.com.

It is sur­pris­ing to see the strong pro­tec­tion­ism sen­ti­ment prop­a­gated by the two pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates in the United States, a coun­try that has long touted it­self as the cham­pion of free trade. Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton and Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump may dis­agree sharply on many is­sues, but their pro­tec­tion­ist and anti-trade rhetoric sounds quite sim­i­lar.

Al­most from the be­gin­ning of his elec­toral cam­paign, Trump has pledged to im­pose a 45-per­cent puni­tive tar­iff on Chi­nese im­ports, which is not only ir­ra­tional, but also im­pos­si­ble, given the pos­si­ble Chi­nese re­tal­i­a­tion, the strong op­po­si­tion from the pow­er­ful US busi­ness com­mu­nity and the se­ri­ous vi­o­la­tion of World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion rules. He has lately not men­tioned the high tar­iffs but still blasts trade with China, Mex­ico and other na­tions.

Clin­ton, mean­while, has re­peat­edly ac­cused Trump of out­sourc­ing his prod­ucts to 12 coun­tries, as if ev­ery­thing Amer­i­cans use must be made in the US. If out­sourc­ing prod­ucts glob­ally is a crime, then Clin­ton is mak­ing a charge against tens of thou­sands of US com­pa­nies. All the For­tune 500 com­pa­nies, many of which have pro­vided do­na­tions to the Clin­ton cam­paign, should be brought to jus­tice be­cause they are all in China and other coun­tries.

What is even more ridicu­lous is that The Wash­ing­ton Post, which en­dorsed Clin­ton on Oct 13, has even both­ered to run a fact check a week ago be­fore con­firm­ing the al­le­ga­tion to be true. The news­pa­per’s “in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist” not only found the names of the 12 coun­tries, but also ex­posed “a com­plete in­ven­tory” of Trump prod­ucts made overseas, from Trump shirts made in China, Bangladesh, Hon­duras and Viet­nam, and Trump home ar­ti­cles man­u­fac­tured in Turkey, Ger­many, In­dia and Slove­nia to Trump Vodka made in a dis­tillery in the Nether­lands.

That re­minded me of what I dis­cov­ered in the of­fi­cial mer­chan­dise store of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Philadel­phia in late July. While T-shirts and mugs had “Made in USA” la­bels, the la­bels of ori­gin could not be found on golf balls, socks and caps. It made me won­der if they might have been taken off de­lib­er­ately to avoid spark­ing a de­bate on po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness.

In prob­a­bly the worst an­ti­trade pres­i­den­tial race in the US in re­cent his­tory, Clin­ton and Trump also share their op­po­si­tion to the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship (TPP), a trade agree­ment be­tween the US and 11 other Pa­cific Rim coun­tries.

Clin­ton once touted the TPP as the gold stan­dard but made a U-turn af­ter launch­ing her elec­tion cam­paign, in a bid to win over im­por­tant union vot­ers, es­pe­cially af­ter peo­ple like AFL-CIO Pres­i­dent Richard Trumka called for a stop to the TPP.

A Pew Cen­ter sur­vey in Jan­uary this year showed that the fa­vor­able view of trade deals among Amer­i­cans is down 8 per­cent­age points since 2014. It’s any­body’s guess whether Clin­ton’s about-face helped her win peo­ple’s sup­port, as most polls show her lead­ing na­tion­ally about a week be­fore the Nov 8 elec­tion. But it is likely to help put to death a legacy US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama des­per­ately wants — the TPP and the US re­bal­ance to Asia strat­egy.

That is truly ironic given Obama has been ac­tively cam­paign­ing for Clin­ton while leav­ing many im­por­tant is­sues fac­ing the 300 mil­lion Amer­i­can peo­ple unat­tended.

The anti-trade rhetoric by both pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates has in­deed shocked peo­ple in the US as well as the rest of the world. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, how­ever, doesn’t have a good track record ei­ther. A Busi­ness In­sider story last year quoted Credit Suisse and Global Trade Alert, a Lon­don-based in­de­pen­dent aca­demic and re­search think tank, as say­ing that the US has im­posed more pro­tec­tion­ist mea­sures than any other coun­try since the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis be­gan in 2008.

World Bank Pres­i­dent Jim Yong Kim and In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Chris­tine La­garde ex­pressed deep con­cern re­cently over the anti-trade and pro­tec­tion­ist rhetoric by the US pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates.

Iron­i­cally, for the past more than three decades, that is, since China launched its re­form and open­ing-up, the West, es­pe­cially the US, had been lec­tur­ing Bei­jing on the mer­its of free trade. It ap­pears now that China is cham­pi­oning glob­al­iza­tion and free trade as many in­dus­tri­al­ized na­tions op­pose it. The G20 Lead­ers Sum­mit in Hangzhou in early Septem­ber, too, made peo­ple re­al­ize the depth of China’s be­lief in glob­al­iza­tion.

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