China not to Blame for Trade Talks Failure

Chu Maoming

Chu Maoming

By Chu Maoming

The 11th round of China-U.S. high-level trade talks ended recently with no agreement reached. The Trump administration, labeling China with “reneging on promises”, claimed that it has seen an erosion in commitments by China, and accused China of backtracking on its pledges and infringing upon its major concerns.

Nonsense! It completely disregards facts, and such false accusation on China is nothing but a lie. Keeping promises is a moral principle that the Chinese nation has always adhered to.

During the last 40 years, China opened its door for construction and shared the outcomes of its reform and opening up to the outside world. The contribution it made to the world economy is obvious to all. The country has always fulfilled its commitments since its accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). By firmly supporting the multilateral system, largely lowering tariffs and reducing non-tariff barriers, and opposing unilateralism and protectionism, China is showing to the world an image of a responsible and faithful major country. By 2010, China had fulfilled all of its tariff reduction commitments, reducing the average tariff level from 15.3 percent in 2001 to 9.8 percent. As early as 2007, China had honored all of its commitments on trade in services, and now the breadth of the country’s openness in this sector is close to the average level of developed countries. Even the Office of the United States Trade Representative has praised China’s performance in the WTO in many of its annual reports, saying the Chinese government has fulfilled WTO commitments.

Since last year, the country has taken a slew of measures to further open up, including the tariff reduction for automobiles and cosmetics, the issuance of the foreign investment law, and widened market access. Now, the manufacturing sector of the country is open to foreign investment in an all-round manner. In addition to keeping promises, China is doing further. The major reform measures announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation have won positive responses from the world, indicating that China is advancing steadfastly with full confidence.

China has always promoted consultation and negotiation with utmost sincerity, hoping to achieve an agreement that leads to win-win results based on equality and mutual respect ever since China and the United States started trade talks last year. Even after the United States threatened to raise tariffs setting a huge barrier on the eve of the 11th round of talks, the Chinese delegation still flew to Washington for further consultations.

However, let’s look at what the United States does.

The United States and China have reached consensus on trade and issued a joint statement on ending trade frictions in Washington in May last year. However, Only days later, the Trump administration said it would impose a 25-percent tariff on 50 billion U.S. dollars’ worth of Chinese imports which contain industrially significant technology, simply abandoning the agreement. The two parties also reached a deal in energy and agricultural cooperation at the beginning of last June, but the United States backtracked and betrayed again within one month. Six months later, the two sides reached consensus on the value of China’s purchases from the United States, but in the following talks the U.S. side once again rejected the deal. Earlier in May this year, the United States decided to raise additional tariffs on 200 billion U.S. dollars’ worth of Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent, on the eve of the latest round of trade talks.

It is quite clear it is the U.S. side that, more than once, changed its mind overnight, and broke the tentative deal already reached.

As a matter of fact, China is not the first victim of U.S. acts of bad faith and trade bullying. Over more than a year, the United States has wielded a “big stick” of protectionism, and coerced many of its trade partners, including South Korea, Canada and Mexico, into re-negotiating their long-existing trade agreements, let alone its frequent withdrawals from international organizations and going back on its words.

The U.S. side is perhaps narcissistic about its art of deal, yet its tainted records in failing to keep its own words have alarmed the world. It is the trade hawks in Washington who should be blamed. They should not count on their maximum pressure tactic to bring China down to its knees.

China never wants to fight a war of any kind with the United States. It has repeatedly called on the United States to change its course and meet the Chinese side halfway to reach a mutually beneficial deal and resolve the conflict. The door for the talks is still open.

* Chu Maoming is China’s Consul General

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