Trade war looms as Trump leaves his election rhetoric unrepaired

15 Nov 2016


Trump's campaign vow to revisit trade policies that he said leave America at an unfair disadvantage is expected to trigger trade war with most of America's trade partners, especially China.

During the election campaign, Trump had accused China of unfair trade practices and currency manipulation and threatened to slap a 45-per cent import tariff on Chinese products.

Little did President-elect Donald Trump's brief but cordial conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday help to reverse the tension that Trump's campaign built up with China over trade and other issues.

Chinese state media suggested that Beijing should slash imports of American goods, including iPhones, if the US imposed steeper tariffs. "Large orders for Boeing planes would switch to Europe, US auto sales in China would face setbacks, Apple phones would essentially be crowded out, and US soybeans and corn would be eradicated from China," the Global Times wrote in an editorial.

Trump is also annoyed at China's building of islands in disputed waters in the South China Sea ignoring calls by the US and China's neighbours and even the United Nations.

Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated Trump on his election but said he has to change his stance – that cooperation was the "only correct choice" for China and the US, the world's two biggest economies.

"At present, there is an important opportunity and huge potential in China-US cooperation," Xi told Trump, according to the reports.

Trump's office said in a statement early on Monday that Trump thanked Xi for his well-wishes on his election.

"During the call, the leaders established a clear sense of mutual respect for one another and President-elect Trump stated that he believes the two leaders will have one of the strongest relationships for both countries moving forward," the statement said.

China, however, expects Trump, being a businessman himself, to end rhetoric and look at things in a business perspective.

"Trump, coming from a business background, is very astute. We do not believe he will treat China-US trade so childishly," the Global Times editorial continued.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the two sides agreed to maintain close contact, build good relations and work toward a meeting between Xi and Trump "as soon as possible."

"What I want to point out is that China always maintains close communication with the US side, including Mr Trump's team, and we will carry on doing that," Geng said at a news conference.

Beijing has built up a $334-billion trade surplus with the United States, which American business claims, is built on unfair export subsidies and mostly stolen intellectual property.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and outgoing US President Barack Obama are scheduled to meet at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Peru next week, perhaps the last opportunity for any patch-up before Trump takes over

The Obama administration has, however, given up on trying to push through the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal as hopes for a last-minute approval faded with Trump's victory.

"We have worked closely with Congress to resolve outstanding issues and are ready to move forward, but this is a legislative process and it's up to congressional leaders as to whether and when this moves forward," the spokesman for US Trade Representative Matt McAlvanah said Friday.

President Barack Obama reportedly hoped have the deal approved by Congress before he turns over the White House to Trump. The post-election lame-duck session is set to start Monday, but it is unlikely that the 12-nation trade deal will be on the table.

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