Saturday, 23 February, 2019

US’ Mnuchin, Lighthizer to hold talks next week in China, sources say

American soybean farmers Trump trade war China US-China trade war a boon for Europe, UN study says
Priscilla Morrison | 06 February, 2019, 18:08

In a new study, economists at the Institute of International Finance found 25 percent tariffs imposed last summer on a $50 billion list of more than 1,000 products ranging from electric cars to industrial seals and medical imaging machines reduced both the value and volume of those products imported from China.

During his State of the Union address in Washington, Trump punctuated his praise of the United States' economy - "far and away the hottest economy anywhere in the world" - with renewed criticism that Beijing had for decades taken advantage of the country's "calamitous trade policies".

The president also renewed his often-repeated falsehood that China was paying the U.S. import duties on its exports.

"I am also asking you to pass the United States Reciprocal Trade Act, so that if another country places an unfair tariff on an American product, we can charge them the exact same tariff on the same product that they sell to us", Trump said.

Washington and Beijing have slapped punishing tariffs on more than US$360 billion (S$486 billion) in two-way trade, which has weighed on the two countries' manufacturing sectors and sent jitters through global markets.

The UNCTAD study pointed to the soybean market, where the tit-for-tat tariffs have resulted in "trade distortionary effects" that have benefitted Brazil especially, since the country has suddenly become the main soybean supplier to China.

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"We are now making it clear to China that after years of targeting our industries and stealing our intellectual property, the theft of American jobs and wealth has come to an end", Mr Trump said. But because the magnitude and duration of tariffs is unclear, Brazilian producers have been reluctant to make investment decisions that may turn out to be unprofitable if the tariffs are revoked.

The study also underlines the "common concern" that trade disputes have an unavoidable impact on the "still fragile" global economy, particularly on developing, commodity-rich countries that are dependent on exports.

"The implications for the entire global trading system will be significantly negative". "One major concern is the risk that trade tensions could spiral into currency wars, making dollar-denominated debt more hard to service", the report added.

For example, the high volume of Chinese exports affected by United States tariffs is likely to hit East Asian value chains the hardest, with UNCTAD estimating that they could contract by about $160 billion.

Unless the USA and Chinese agree to drop their tariff dispute by 1 March, duty on each country's products will rise to 25 per cent, up from the current 10 per cent level.

The new round of talks in Beijing, to be led by US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, was earlier reported by the Wall Street Journal, citing an unidentified senior administration official. March 1, 2019 is the deadline for implementing the measures.

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