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A Trade War That Cannot Be Won

financialsense.com / STRATFOR / 01/11/2017

More than trade figures, the kinds of goods the United States imports from China reveal the complexities of the two countries’ trade relationship—and the challenges US President-elect Donald Trump will face in trying to change it.

Forecast

  • Protectionist trade policies toward China would do little to achieve the incoming US administration’s stated goal of reviving US manufacturing.
  • Beijing would use various means—in particular, harassing US companies that operate in China and depend on the country’s growing consumer market—to retaliate against protectionism in the United States.
  • President-elect Donald Trump’s administration will likely focus on curbing Chinese steel imports, a policy that could boost US manufacturing without doing much damage to China’s economy.

Analysis

The trade relationship between the United States and China is a cornerstone of the global economy and a linchpin of the economic, social and political order in both countries. But in recent years, and particularly during the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election, the partnership has come under fire in the United States. Leaders such as President-elect Donald Trump have criticized Washington’s trade ties with Beijing as unfavorable since China’s exports to the United States exceed its imports from it. Trump has decried the negative effects of this trade imbalance and promised to correct it, for instance by imposing a 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports. Despite the backlash that such a drastic measure would invite from Beijing, Trump argues that the United States is better poised to weather a prolonged trade dispute than is China, thanks to their lopsided trade relationship.

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