Mnuchin expresses optimism trade standoffs can be resolved

China's economy grew a forecast-beating 6.8 percent in the first quarter, official data showed on April 17, overcoming Beijing's battle on financial risk and pollution and trade tensions with the US. (AFP)
Updated 22 April 2018
0

Mnuchin expresses optimism trade standoffs can be resolved

  • “We are cautiously optimistic,” US treasury secretary says of trade talks with Chinese counterparts
  • China's commerce ministry welcomes prospect of US visit to discuss trade issues

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank repeatedly warned at their meetings this week that intensifying trade tensions could jeopardize a healthy global economic expansion.
But US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressed cautious optimism Saturday that countries could settle their differences without a trade war.
Mnuchin met during the past three days with financial officials from China, Japan and Europe over a series of punitive tariffs unveiled by the Trump administration against China and other trading partners.
In a session with reporters, Mnuchin refused to say how close the United States was to resolving the various trade disputes, but he did say progress had been made.
The United States and China are on the brink of what would be the biggest trade dispute since World War II. Each has proposed imposing tariffs of $50 billion on each other’s products; President Donald Trump is looking to impose tariffs up to $100 billion more on Chinese goods.
In a speech earlier this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to open China’s market wider to foreign companies, raising hopes the dispute with Washington could be resolved. Mnuchin said he discussed Xi’s proposals with Chinese officials. “We are cautiously optimistic,” Mnuchin told reporters, saying that he may soon travel to Beijing for further talks.

 

The Commerce Ministry in Beijing said Sunday that China welcomes a visit from the US to Beijing to discuss trade issues and confirms it has “received information” regarding Washington’s interest in such a trip.
Trade tensions dominated the three days of talks among top finance officials attending meetings of the Group of 20 major economies, the 189-nation International Monetary Fund and its sister lending agency, the World Bank.
The officials roundly criticized Trump’s get-tough approach to trade, a reversal of seven decades of US support for increasing freedom in global commerce. In his speech to the IMF’s policy committee Saturday, Yi Gang, the head of China’s central bank, said that global growth could be hurt by “an escalation of trade frictions caused by unilateral actions,” an obvious reference to America’s threatened tariffs against China.
Mnuchin insisted that the United States was not trying to provoke a global trade war but seeking to protect American jobs from unfair competition. “The president has been very clear on what our objectives are,” Mnuchin said. “We are looking for reciprocal treatment. This is not about protectionism.”
There were signs of conciliation. The US dropped its objection to the first increase in the World Bank’s capital resources since 2010, clearing the way for the bank’s board to OK a $13 billion increase in its capacity to make loans to poor countries. The move was tied to a package of reforms the US had sought.
Both the World Bank and IMF held meetings of their policy committees on Saturday. In a closing communique, the IMF expressed concern that the rising trade tensions could dim what at the moment are bright prospects for the global economy, which is expected to grow this year at the fastest pace since 2011.
“Trade tensions are not to the benefit of anyone,” said Lesetja Kganyago, who leads the policymaking committee and is governor of the South African Reserve Bank. “If there is a trade conflict, there could never be winners. We could all only be losers.”
On Friday, Mnuchin had called on the IMF to do more to police countries running large trade surpluses, a role that has traditionally been left to the Geneva-based World Trade Organization. The final IMF communique did state: “We will work together to reduce excessive global imbalances in a way that supports global growth.” The communique did not spell out how this would be accomplished.

FASTFACTS

$50 billion

The proposed level if tariffs by China and the US on each other's products.


China praises positive steps in US trade row

Updated 45 sec ago
0

China praises positive steps in US trade row

  • “Despite all the pressure, China didn’t ‘fold,’ as US President Donald Trump observed. Instead, it stood firm and continually expressed its willingness to talk,”
  • “The Chinese are in a state of quiet glee knowing that Trump’s trade team backed off on sanctions without getting any real and meaningful concessions out of Beijing,”
BEIJING: Chinese state media on Monday praised a significant dialing back of trade tension with the US, saying China had stood its ground and the two countries had huge potential for win-win business cooperation.
A trade war was “on hold” after the world’s largest economies agreed to drop their tariff threats while they work on a wider trade agreement, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday.
The previous day, Beijing and Washington said they would keep talking about measures under which China would import more energy and agricultural commodities from the US to narrow the $335 billion annual US goods and services trade deficit with China.
The official China Daily said everyone could heave a sigh of relief at the ratcheting down of the rhetoric, and cited China’s chief negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He, as saying the talks had proved to be “positive, pragmatic, constructive and productive.”
“Despite all the pressure, China didn’t ‘fold,’ as US President Donald Trump observed. Instead, it stood firm and continually expressed its willingness to talk,” the English-language newspaper said in an editorial.
“That the US finally shared this willingness, means the two sides have successfully averted the head-on confrontation that at one point seemed inevitable,” it said.
During an initial round of talks this month in Beijing, the US demanded that China reduce its trade surplus by $200 billion. No dollar figure was cited in the countries’ joint statement on Saturday.
But some analysts in Beijing warned that trade tension would persist, and that China should prepare for more action on trade from the Trump administration.
“We should not be blindly optimistic,” Shi Yinhong, an expert on China-US relations at Renmin University in Beijing said at a forum on Sunday after the trade agreement was announced.
“Blind optimism (could lead to) China losing at this crossroads.”
Shi said China could accept a lower trade surplus and reduce its market entry barriers, but would not compromise on its industrial policy.
The ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily said that in the energy and agriculture sectors the two countries had obvious synergies, with the US having the capacity to satisfy the massive Chinese market.
“The ballast stone of Sino-US ties are an equal and mutually beneficial trade and business relationship. Its essence is win-win cooperation,” it said.
But China was not being forced to increase imports as a way to ward off the trade tensions or because the country had submitted to outside pressure, the newspaper said in a commentary.
China will naturally need to import more to satisfy demand from its increasingly affluent consumers, the newspaper wrote.
“Trade wars have no winners,” it added in the commentary, published under the pen name “Zhong Sheng,” meaning “Voice of China,” used to give the paper’s view on foreign policy issues.
However, some people in US business groups, who had been pushing for tougher US policies to pressure China to reform market barriers, expressed frustration and disappointment, saying it would be hard for the administration to rebuild momentum to take on Chinese industrial policies.
James Zimmerman, a Beijing-based lawyer and a former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said the Trump administration’s move to walk back its threatened trade actions was premature, and a “lost opportunity” for American companies, workers and consumers.
“The Chinese are in a state of quiet glee knowing that Trump’s trade team backed off on sanctions without getting any real and meaningful concessions out of Beijing,” Zimmerman said.