Theories of IR: Was the US justified in starting the trade war?/stain in Sino-US relations:trade war

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The goal of this paper is to examine the relationship between China and the United states (hereafter referred to as the US), looking at the challenges or strain in their relations. The challenges cited here are those specifically relating to the current trade tensions, with the aim of seeing if the US was justified in starting this trade war with China.

There have been signs of tension even from the beginning of the bilateral reltios between China and the US in the 1960s, but the one sign in focus here was in THIS YAR AND THIS MONTH when president Donald J. Trump imposed sanctions on China for THIS THING. Before inauguration, president Trump was fairly vocal about his displeasure with America’s trade relationship with China and what he would do to remedy the situation once he got in the Presidential seat. He observed that China DID THIS AND THIS and intended to fix it IN THIS WAY. True to word, President Trump wasted no time placing tariffs on certain goods. China of course would not take this lying down, and it was from that point that we saw the two spiral into a seemingly unending standoff, with but a break of a few months here and there, e.g. the PAUSE IN THE TRADE WAR in December of 2018.  Though there have been trade agreement talks, with more scheduled for the future, observers are unoptimistic as to whether a trade deal will actually be reached.

Now getting to the reasons behind the trade war that brought the strain in relations to begin with. This paper uses the 2018 USTR report to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as the main reference document, due to the fact that the main issue is trade tensions, and the WTO is the main governing body when it comes to issues of trade. Also because it is in this report that US grievances against China are laid out in detail. The WTO remains the best hope the US has to discipline China’s errant practices. Rather than endlessly engaging in the game of sanctions and counter sanctions, along with trade deals and talks that may have no positive outcome, it would be better for the US to advance its trade interests by taking the time instead to seek and implement a binding and enforceable WTO judgment backed by the lawful threat of significant economic sanctions. Upon joining the WTO, it was expected that China would adhere to certain rules or standards SUCH AS THESE, and China said it would, has been cautioned time and again, but hasn’t with some of them.

Longstanding issues that are still of major concern include, but are not limited to, industrial policies, IPR, services, agriculture, transparency, and legal framework.(ADD MORE). The US has spent almost two decades partially successfully trying to resolve these issues, and from 2017 took on a more aggressive strategy and using all available tools – including domestic trade remedies, bilateral negotiations, WTO litigation and strategic engagement with like-minded trading partners – to respond to the challenges presented by China. These issues remain relevant because they are still part of ongoing negotiations.

This paper posits that the main issue of contention, an issue that many western countries likely have with China; is that it has not conformed to a market economy system, and so the US is out to take all appropriate actions to ensure that the costs of China’s non-market economic system are borne by China, not by the US.

  • (end part) While these are all valid concerns, it is important to keep the source of the report in mind. It is possible that some facts and figures may be incorrect or inaccurate, and that the USTR may have exaggerated some facts to cast the light in the US’ favour. Citing a 1970s report, US statistics showed a trade deficift from 1979 to 1982, then 1983 onwards, and in the American perspective that deficit has expanded and persisted till today. While China’s statistics showed that THEY had run a deficit from 1979 to 1992, with a surplus only starting in 1993. Clearly there was a problem here, so the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) set up a bilateral statistics working group to settle this; and they found that the US had overestimated Chinese exports and underestimated imports. (TRY CITE THE BOOK HERE).
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