Trade:

A brew­ing war with China

The Week (US) - - 16 News -

“What’s true of shoot­ing wars is also true of trade wars,” said Steve Chap­man in the Chicago Tri­bune—never start one with­out know­ing how to end it. Pres­i­dent Trump raged about China’s un­fair trad­ing tac­tics from the start of his cam­paign, and now his ad­min­is­tra­tion has de­cided he can “bend China to his will” by pro­vok­ing a trade war be­tween the world’s two largest economies. First, Trump or­dered tar­iffs on alu­minum and steel from China, then an­nounced tar­iffs on $50 bil­lion worth of ad­di­tional Chi­nese ex­ports last week. China re­tal­i­ated with $50 bil­lion in tar­iffs on 106 Amer­i­can prod­ucts, in­clud­ing cars, planes, TVs, pork, and soy­beans. The pres­i­dent hit back by threat­en­ing to slap China with an ad­di­tional $100 bil­lion in tar­iffs. The stock mar­ket went into a swoon, while Amer­i­can farm­ers—who voted for Trump in large numbers in 2016—were deeply rat­tled, fear­ing they’d be­come ca­su­al­ties in Trump’s trade war. “If he’s even half-se­ri­ous,” said Repub­li­can Sen. Ben Sasse of Ne­braska, “this is nuts.”

Tar­iffs may not be the so­lu­tion, but “on one big, fun­da­men­tal point, Pres­i­dent Trump is right,” said Fa­reed Zakaria in The Wash­ing­ton Post. “China is a trade cheat.” China rou­tinely steals in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty from U.S. cor­po­ra­tions, and blocks Amer­i­can tech giants from en­ter­ing its econ­omy. True, but tar­iffs do noth­ing to pro­tect in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty, said Paul Krug­man in The New York Times. Trump doesn’t un­der­stand that our trade deficit with China—which he claims is $500 bil­lion but is ac­tu­ally $340 bil­lion—sim­ply means Chi­nese fac­to­ries assem­ble lots of in­ex­pen­sive prod­ucts for the U.S. mar­ket. Our ig­no­rant pres­i­dent thinks free trade means the Chi­nese are “in ef­fect steal­ing $500 bil­lion a year from Amer­ica.”

Ev­ery­one should stop pan­ick­ing, said Hol­man Jenk­ins Jr. in The Wall Street Jour­nal. Trump has been “in ne­go­ti­a­tions all his life” and un­der­stands how to play hard­ball. The Chi­nese “know the U.S. has le­git­i­mate gripes,” and this week, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping al­ready took a con­cil­ia­tory stance, pledg­ing that China would open its mar­kets to U.S. and other for­eign goods. Let’s hope Trump’s gam­ble pays off, said Jonathan Tobin in Na­tion­alRe­view .com. A trade war could badly dent “the op­ti­mism that has fu­eled the Trump boom” and cre­ate a back­lash against Repub­li­cans among work­ing­class vot­ers in Novem­ber. “His­tory teaches us that trade wars don’t gen­er­ally pro­duce win­ners, but rather hurt all those in­volved.”

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