By Foster Klug
The Associated Press
PITTSBURGH (AP) — On Sept. 24, China played down growing trade tensions with the United States, saying the two trading partners must focus on long-term relations and settle their differences through friendly talks.
Yu Jianhua, director-general of the Commerce Ministry’s International Trade Department, also told reporters on the sidelines of the Group of 20 economic summit that world leaders should “firmly reject trade protectionism,” which “hurts others without benefiting yourself.”
His comments come a week after Beijing filed a World Trade Organization challenge to Washington’s decision to raise tariffs on imports of Chinese-made tires. This week, a U.S. labor union and three paper companies announced they had filed a new trade complaint over imports of Chinese paper.
Yu expressed China’s hopes that the 20 leading rich and developing nations gathered in Pittsburgh would send a strong message against countries protecting their industries from competition.
But Yu, speaking generally of trade friction between the United States and China, said the two countries must “focus on the long-term and larger picture.”
In a measured tone, he noted that it was no surprise that occasional trade problems arise between two huge countries whose trade grows daily. The trick, he said, is to resolve differences through negotiations.
At G-20 meetings in November and again in April, leaders vowed to resist erecting new trade barriers or subsidies. Since then, however, the countries together have enacted about 100 “blatantly protectionist” restrictions, according to the London-based Centre for Economic Policy Research.
Earlier this month, President Barack Obama decided to slap a 35 percent tariff on Chinese tires. This provoked an angry response from China, where there were calls for retaliation against U.S. chicken and auto parts exports.
In a more recent case, China and Indonesia are accused of improperly subsidizing exports of some types of coated paper that are said to have flooded the U.S. market, wiping out thousands of American jobs.
At the economic summit, the United States must deal carefully with China. Beijing is a growing economic, military, and diplomatic power, and a major presence at the G-20 meeting.
The White House needs the Chinese to confront climate change, nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea, and global economic turmoil. China is the world’s third largest economy and a veto-holding member of the United Nations Security Council.
The Chinese and U.S. economies are also increasingly intertwined. China is the largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury securities, with $800.5 billion. The holdings are a direct result of the huge trade deficits the United States runs with China. ♦