Xi Condemns Bullying, Protectionism Ahead of Meeting With Trump at G20 Summit


Asian member states have grown in prominence as China, India and
Indonesia’s economies have boomed over the past two decades. Photo: AFP

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2019-06-28/what-are-the-g-20-leaders-going-to-discuss-at-their-summit-video

The world’s most powerful leaders are gathering in Japan for meetings that may set the direction for the global economy and make the difference between war and peace in geopolitical hotspots.

Key things to watch include any signs of a breakthrough in U.S.-China trade talks, efforts to stem rising tensions between the Trump administration and Iran, and concrete action to lower emissions and reduce plastic pollution in oceans. Major agenda items include President Donald Trump’s meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

China’s President Xi Jinping condemned protectionism and “bullying practices” in a meeting with African leaders ahead of the summit, according to Dai Bing, the foreign ministry’s Director General for African Affairs.

“Any attempt to put one’s own interests first and undermine others’ will not win any popularity,” Xi said, according to Dai.

The comments come a day ahead of Xi’s meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump as the leaders try to resolve their trade war, as well as other major disputes like Huawei and the South China Sea. – Bloomberg

Read more:

US president warns of Plan B on China trade – Business News

Only sincerity can break trade impasse

Whether there is an agreement or not, China will defend its core interests and will focus on doing its own things well. China is well prepared economically and politically

G20: as China and India draw close, has Trump overplayed his hand?
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Merkel arrives at G20 after second shaking scare
German leader, 65, sparked renewed fears for her health after bout of uncontrollable shaking on eve of summit in Japan.
China and Japan try to move to ‘next level’ as Xi state visit confirmed

Chinese president meets Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ahead of G20 summit in Osaka, saying he hopes to strengthen ties further.

As G20 host, Japan faces awkward criticism of environmental record
Activists say Japan has fallen behind on reducing plastic consumption and is caving to US pressure to water down language on climate change to achieve a unanimous statement on the issue.
Explainer | Why the G20 summit matters for Asia (and Asean)
Asia’s major economies have become increasingly important at the multilateral
forum, which experts say is an opportunity for the likes of China and Japan to step into leadership roles formerly dominated by the West.
Xi calls for another US-North Korea nuclear summit
Kim still committed to goal of denuclearising the Korean peninsula, Xi says.
China welcomes ‘actions that avoid US trade war dispute escalation’
Chinese President Xi Jinping and US counterpart Donald Trump are set to meet in
Osaka, Japan on Saturday, with reports that details of a truce are
being drafted.
G20: eyes on Trump, but Putin’s date with Xi, Modi is one to watch
The Russian leader faces a whirlwind diplomatic task in Osaka. Iran, Syria
and arms control top his agenda with the US president, while Trump’s
stance on trade has pushed India, China and Russia closer
US and China tentatively agree to trade war truce ahead of G20
Fresh tariffs threatened by the United States are expected to be delayed, with the two countries preparing separate statements.
US-China trade war could last ‘longer than a generation’
Tariff war could ease after G20 meeting between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump in
Osaka, but rivalry over technology and finance may escalate into other
fields.
US-China trade war deal ‘90 per cent complete’, US Treasury chief says
Steven Mnuchin says this week’s meeting of the leaders of the world’s two biggest economies will be ‘very important’
US pressure on Seoul over Huawei taps into fears of North Korea
Washington hints that access to its spying capabilities could be under threat if
South Korea does not play ball over China’s 5G giant. That leaves Seoul to weigh the demands of its security ally against those of its top trade partner.
US wraps up hearings on plan to hit all Chinese goods with tariffs
Hundreds of companies and industry groups weigh in on impact of proposed tariffs on around US$300 billion of Chinese products, ahead of Saturday’s Trump-Xi meeting in Japan.

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More people around the world see U.S. power and influence as a ‘major threat’ to their country



Video

By John Gramlich and Kat Devlin

A growing share of people around the world see U.S. power and influence as a “major threat” to their country, and these views are linked with attitudes toward President Donald Trump and the United States as a whole, according to Pew Research Center surveys conducted in 22 nations since 2013.

As confidence in president, favorable views of America have declined, more see U.S. power as a ‘major threat’

 As confidence in president, favorable views of America have declined, more see U.S. power as a 'major threat'

A median of 45% across the surveyed nations see U.S. power and influence as a major threat, up from 38% in the same countries during Trump’s first year as president in 2017 and 25% in 2013, during the administration of Barack Obama. The long-term increase in the share of people who see American power as a threat has occurred alongside declines in the shares of people who say they have confidence in the U.S. president to do the right thing regarding world affairs and who have a favorable view of the United States. (For more about global views toward the U.S. president and the country he leads, see “Trump’s International Ratings Remain Low, Especially Among Key Allies.”)

Despite these changes, U.S. power and influence still ranks below other perceived threats around the world. Considerably larger shares of people point to global climate change (seen as a major threat by a median of 67%), the Islamic militant group known as ISIS (cited by 62%) and cyberattacks (cited by 61%). U.S. power and influence, in fact, is not seen as the top threat in any of the countries surveyed.

People see U.S. power and influence as a greater threat in the Trump era

 People see U.S. power and influence as a greater threat in the Trump era

Still, in 18 of the 22 countries, there were statistically significant increases in the share of people who see American power and influence as a major threat between 2013 and 2018. That includes increases of 30 percentage points in Germany, 29 points in France, and 26 points in Brazil and Mexico. And while these shares rose substantially in many countries after Trump’s election, they increased further in several nations between Trump’s first and second year in office.

In Germany and France, for instance, the share of people who see U.S. power and influence as a major threat went up by 14 and 13 percentage points, respectively, between 2017 and 2018. Other notable year-over-year increases occurred in Tunisia (11 points), Canada and Argentina (8 points each), South Africa (7 points) and Brazil and Russia (6 points each).

Other nations bucked this trend, however. In Spain, for example, the share of people who see American power as a major threat fell by 17 points between 2017 and 2018 (from 59% to 42%). Still, people in Spain remain much more likely to see the U.S. as a threat today than in 2013.

Overall, there are 10 nations surveyed where roughly half or more now see U.S. power as a major threat, with the biggest shares saying this in South Korea (67%), Japan (66%) and Mexico (64%).

In South Korea, equal shares point to U.S. power and influence and to North Korea’s nuclear program as a major threat to their nation (each is cited by 67% of the public). However, several other perceived threats to South Koreans outrank U.S. power and influence, including global climate change (named by 86% of South Koreans), China’s power and influence (cited by 82%), cyberattacks from other countries (cited by 81%) and the condition of the global economy (cited by 74%). South Koreans have long perceived American power as a major threat to their country: 66% said this in 2013 and 70% said it in 2017.

In many of the surveyed countries, concerns about American power and influence are connected with views of Trump: People who have little or no confidence in the U.S. president to do the right thing regarding world affairs are more likely than those who have confidence in Trump to see U.S. power and influence as a top threat to their country. This includes several longtime U.S. allies, including Canada, the UK and Australia.

The same pattern appears when it comes to views of the U.S. in general, as opposed to its president. In most surveyed nations, people who have a more unfavorable view of the U.S. are also more likely to say that American power and influence is a threat to their nation.

Topics: U.S. Global Image and Anti-Americanism, Country Image, Donald Trump
Photo of John Gramlich

is a writer/editor at Pew Research Center.

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Yang Jiechi defends Huawei at the Munich Security Conference

Tariff war threatens world trading system


TODAY marks another milestone in the escalating global trade war that threatens to shake the foundations of the world trading system and cause economic uncertainty at a time of financial fragility. It’s an altogether bad development that adds more gloom to global economic prospects.

Last week, the United States announced it would slap an additional 10% tariff on US$200bil worth of imports from China. Hours later, China said it would put 5% to 10% extra tariffs on US$60bil of imports from the US.

Both sets of tariff increases come into effect today. But that’s not all.

The US also said it would raise the extra tariffs on the US$200bil of imports from 10% now to 25% at the end of the year. And if China retaliates (which it now has), the US might slap higher tariffs on yet another US$267bil of Chinese imports.

This comes on top of tariffs on an initial US$50bil worth of imports that the US had placed on Chinese imports a few months ago, and equivalent tariffs on US$50bil on US imports that China imposed as retaliation.

And even before that, the US had put extra tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from all countries, except a few that were exempted for the time being.

The US is also threatening to put tariffs on imported auto vehicles and parts, including those from Europe. That is on hold because of a bilateral deal reached, but could be re-ignited if President Donald Trump is not satisfied with Euro­pean behaviour.

The US itself is experiencing negative effects of this trade war. The prices of the initial US$50bil of imported Chinese products have started to go up in the US, raising costs for both consumers and producers.

The Chinese are similarly affected. Exports of both countries are also bound to decline, and this will eventually affect their overall economic growth.

There will be collateral effects on other countries. In Asia, those that are integrated in the global supply chain will find less demand for their exports of components to China. The effect on Malaysia is projected by analysts to be around 0.4 to 0.7 percentage point of GNP in 2019.

This could be offset by positive effects. Some companies producing in China are considering relocating to other countries, including Malaysia, to escape the US’ punitive tariffs. And some Malaysian products may become cheaper than Chinese products, which will now attract extra duties.

But it is likely that the bad effects will outweigh any such good effects, at least in the short run.

It is clear that the US is to blame for the trade war. Its unilateral actions are against the spirit and rules of the trading system, and have in fact undermined its legitimacy and viability.

The steel and aluminium tariffs were imposed under the US security clause of its domestic trade law, while the other tariff increases are under Section 301 of the trade law. The US actions are against various World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

Challenges to the US unilateral measures have been taken by China and other countries at the WTO. If the US is found in violation, which is quite likely, it has to stop its actions or face retaliation: the countries that win the cases heard by the WTO panels of experts are allowed to impose equivalent tariffs on US products.

However, the US has engineered a crisis in the WTO’s dispute settlement system so that soon the outcome of successful cases against it cannot be implemented.

This is because the US is now paralysing the WTO’s Appellate Body by refusing to allow new members of the body to be appointed to replace those retiring. Soon there will be only three members left, out of a full body of seven. Two more will be retiring in January 2019. A minimum of three members is needed to sit on a case.

Thus, if a lower-level panel rules against the US’ unilateral actions, and the US lodges an appeal that cannot be heard because there are not enough appellate body members, the panel decision cannot be enforced.

This would make the WTO quite a toothless organisation. There would be no legal remedy to enforce penalties for breaking the WTO laws. Countries that impose unilateral tariff increases can get away with it. In turn, other countries would also do the same.

The rules-based trade system is already starting to break down. We are now seeing blatant protectionism by the US and retaliation by affected countries. Within months, the trade war could spread, with the law of the jungle becoming more prominent.

Tears will not be shed in the developing countries if some rules cannot be upheld anymore, such as the WTO’s TRIPS agreement on intellectual property. The free trade economist Jagdish Bhagwati has said the TRIPS treaty does not belong in the WTO.

But what all members like about the WTO is its role in ensuring the predictability that their exports can sell in the markets of its members, with tariffs at rates agreed to at the WTO.

If that predictability is lost, then there can be a lot of uncertainty, as one country after another can unilaterally impose extra tariffs on other countries, which may then trigger retaliation.

This breakdown of the trading system may be the more serious effect of what started as a US-initiated trade war.

Trump may not care what happens to the system, as he has said many times that the WTO is a terrible organisation that the US should leave. And his recent actions, in fact, seem calculated to undermine, if not destroy it.

It is a new world we are looking at, in a scenario that would not have appeared possible a year or even months ago.

Policy makers, companies, analysts and the public should ponder about this, even as they follow the details of the tit-for-tat trade war that the US is waging against China and other countries.

Martin Khor is adviser of the Third World Network. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

Credit: Global Trend by Martin Khor

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China won’t yield to US trade stick

We also hope that the Chinese public gets to know the causes and effects of the event and the steadiness of the Chinese government’s policies. No matter how long China-US trade conflicts last, China is doing what it should. China is honest and principled and a major trade power with intensive strengths. No one can take us down.

US hysterical in blocking sci-tech exchanges

The US is anxious about its temporary gains and losses. One minute it wants Sino-US exchanges, but the next it worries China is taking advantage. Its relevant policies are bound to change all the time. Its latest decision is like the trade war. Washington’s purpose is to drag Beijing down, but it will mostly hurt itself.

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The Damocles index by Nomura warns of fiscal tension in Malaysia, score accross coountries, the hits and misses 1996~20118


PETALING JAYA: Allowing a larger fiscal deficit and running the risk of a sovereign credit rating downgrade in 2019 could cause balance of payments stress, given Malaysia’s high short-term external debts and low foreign exchange (forex) reserves, said Nomura.

Following the reversal of fiscal reforms like goods and services tax (GST) and the removal of fuel subsidies, the new government now faces the tough choice of either cutting spending at the cost of growth, or allowing a larger fiscal deficit and the risk of a sovereign credit rating downgrade in 2019.

According to a Nomura global research report, Malaysia’s Damocles score in July 2018 was 86.9, below the 100 threshold.

The Damocles index by Nomura summarises macroeconomic and financial variables into a single measure to assess an economy’s vulnerability to a currency crisis.

The oil price slump of 2014 to 2016 was a major shock for Malaysia, one of the few net-oil and gas exporters in Asia.

“While Bank Negara initially expanded forex reserves to defend the ringgit, it eventually allowed a sharp depreciation in 2015 which boosted export competitiveness.

“Malaysia has proved resilient and its current account remained in surplus, benefiting from a diversified economy and fiscal reforms,” said Nomura.

Three countries in the region, namely, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines, have a Damocles score of zero, while Vietnam has a moderate Damocles score of 35.

The Bank of Thailand is signalling policy normalisation to build policy space and reduce financial stability risks following a prolonged period of exceptionally low interest rates. This is as headline consumer price index (CPI) inflation returned to within the 1% to 4% inflation target and economy growing at potential.

Thailand’s current account surplus as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) has been sizeable since 2015, driven by weak domestic demand and, more recently, growing tourism revenues as well as an export recovery.

“Over this period, forex reserves rose sharply, and they are now at very favourable adequacy levels relative to both imports and short-term external debts.

“The fiscal deficit is expected to widen slightly in 2018, as the government increases spending to support populist policies targeting low-income earners, in the run-up to the election in early 2019,” said Nomura, adding that real interest rates are falling gradually and remain marginally positive, as inflationary pressures have been stubbornly weak.

Over in Indonesia, a negative terms-of-trade shock in 2014 raised the Damocles score in 2014 to 2016, but it has fallen back to zero due to Bank Indonesia’s build-up of forex reserve buffers and government reforms that improved foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows.

While depreciation pressures have risen again in 2018, BI has acted decisively with 125 basis points in policy rate hikes to date.

“We expect another 25 basis points, with the risk of more.

“Bank Indonesia maintains a flexible forex regime and a dual-intervention framework in forex and bond markets, as well as introduced macro-prudential measures, like requiring residents to hedge external exposure,” said Nomura.

The research house added that Bank Indonesia has also strengthened policy coordination with the Finance Ministry, which is implementing policies to reduce the current account deficit, while prioritising a credible 2019 budget despite upcoming presidential elections.

Sword of Damocles hangs over Sri Lanka

PETALING JAYA: Sri Lanka is at risk of an exchange rate crisis mainly due to its still-weak fiscal finances and a fragile external position.

Sri Lanka charted the highest Damocles score of 175, among 30 emerging market (EM) economies.

The Damocles index by Nomura summarises macroeconomic and financial variables into a single measure to assess an economy’s vulnerability to a currency crisis.

A score above 100 suggests a country is vulnerable to an exchange rate crisis in the next 12 months, while a reading above 150 signals that a crisis could erupt at any time.

Sri Lanka has large refinancing needs, with foreign exchange (forex) reserves of less than five months of import cover and high short-term external debt of US$ 7.5bil.

“Political stability also remains an issue, as recent resignations have weakened the government (its term ends mid-2020) and despite retaining a simple majority, complicates the task of continuing to implement International Monetary Fund (IMF)-induced reforms.

“However, without IMF support, the risk of a currency crisis would be higher,” said Nomura in its global research report.

Meanwhile, South Africa, Argentina, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey and Ukraine are currently vulnerable to an exchange rate crisis, having Damocles scores of more than 100.

“Based on our definition, Argentina and Turkey are experiencing currency crises, while Argentina, Egypt, Sri Lanka and Ukraine have turned to the IMF for assistance, leaving Pakistan and South Africa as the standouts.

“As investors focus more on risk, it is important not to lump all EMs together as one homogeneous group; Damocles highlights a long list of countries with very low risk of currency crises,” said Nomura.

Eight countries, namely, Brazil, Bulgaria, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Peru, Philippines, Russia and Thailand, have Damocles scores of zero.

It is notable that China’s Damocles index has maintained since dropping to 36.9 in late 2017 from 62.4 in October 2017.

The index far below the 100 threshold suggests that the risk of an exchange rate crisis in China is limited.

Nomura concurred that China’s balance of payment position remains healthy, given it has the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves at US$3.1 trillion, as of July 2018.

“However, we highlight that its pockets are not as deep as they once were, given that current account deficits at minus 0.4% of gross domestic product (GDP) in the first half of 2018 may occur more frequently, net direct investment inflows may moderate further, and external debt has risen significantly.

“Moreover, we see domestic challenges from weakening aggregate demand and other fundamental problems, and external risks from the escalation in China-US trade tensions and trade protectionism,” said Nomura.

As for India, its Damocles score has fallen to 25 in the third quarter of 2018, from 56 during 2012 to 2013.

India’s most recent currency crisis occurred in 2013 and was due to weak domestic macro fundamentals and worsening external funding conditions. Since then, consumer price index (CPI) inflation has moderated to about 4.5% in 2018 from 9.7% in 2012, as has the current account deficit at an estimated -2.5% of GDP, compared to minus 5% in 2012. Furthermore, India’s central bank has a sufficient forex reserve buffer of 9.3 months of import cover versus 6.4 in 2012.

“However, given India runs a current account deficit, it remains vulnerable to bouts of global risk aversion. Higher oil prices and portfolio outflows are its key external vulnerabilities.

“Aside from these, the key risks stem from the government turning more populist ahead of the 2019 general elections (worsening domestic fundamentals) and a sharper-than-expected domestic growth slowdown (triggering equity outflows),” said Nomura.

The Damocles index comprises eight indicators that are found to be the best predictors of exchange rate crises in the 30-country sample, in which there have been 54 crises since 1996. It includes five single indicators which are import cover, short-term external debt or exports, forex reserves or short-term external debt, broad money or forex reserves and real short-term interest rate.

On the other hand, the three joint indicators are non-foreign direct investment (FDI) gross inflows of one-year and three-year, fiscal and current account, as well as current account and real effective exchange rate deviation. To date, Damocles has correctly signalled 67% of the past 54 crises in Nomura’s sample, including the Asian financial crisis (1997 to 1998), Russian financial crisis (1998) and the 2018 EM currency crises in Argentina and Turkey.

“The advantage of Damocles lies in its objective nature in letting the data speak, not clouded by conventional misperceptions or biases based on past experiences. While the results achieved are encouraging, but given the inherent limitations of any early warning system, it would be foolish to make any exaggerated claims.

“For instance, Brazil’s Damocles score of zero implies very low external vulnerability; yet the Brazilian real (BRL) has depreciated more than 10% in August alone due to an uncertain presidential election outlook,” said Nomura. – The Star

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Coming recession in 2020? Possibly earlier


Negative rates: Pedestrians walking past the Bank of Japan (BoJ) headquarters in Tokyo. BoJ’s goal remains
at keeping real interest rates as negative as possible, as long as the economy performs. — Bloomberg

IT’S mid-term review time as the US yield curve begins to flatten.

This curve tracks the relationship between interest rates of US government debt obligations. Normally the yield curve is rising, with long-term bonds having yields higher than short-term obligations.

But occasionally the curve inverts, with long bonds yielding less than short Treasury bills – a historical predictor of future recessions and bear markets in stocks. Recently, the curve has become noticeably flatter, with short rates rising and longer yields remaining stagnant. This has led many analysts to think that the yield curve will soon invert.

But that does not mean a recession is imminent. Just returned from an extended visit back to Harvard. Touched base with my mentors and professors at both extremes of the economic spectrum. They are all split on what this flattening really means. In the event it does invert (the gap today being below 0.3%), recession has almost always (over the past 50 years) followed within a year or so. But few see a recession soon on the horizon.

The first half has come and gone. The ongoing transition to more normal conditions continue in the context of a robust US economy; continued progress in the orderly normalisation of US monetary policy; and re-awakened sensitivities to geopolitical and protectionist risks.

There will be higher interest rates, some inflation concerns and trade tariffs coming-on in the context of markets more readily accepting two to three more rate hikes by the Fed in 2018. The prospect of a global trade war makes everyone very cautious.

Once we start down the road of tariff increases and threats of more to come, the dangers of retaliatory miscalculations are real and very scary. Still even an inverted yield curve should not be on top of our worry list under today’s accommodative monetary conditions.

Synchronised pick-up

The world economy benefitted from four drivers of higher growth: the healing process in Europe, re-bound from slowdowns in Brazil, India and Russia; soft landing in China; and pro-growth measures in US.

To persist, Europe needs to do much more. Also, there is hope that recent tariff tensions would eventually lead to fairer and still-free trade which recognises the inter-dependent nature of global supply chains, and show greater willingness to protect intellectual property rights, modernize trade arrangements and reduce non-tariff barriers. Yes, more rate hikes from the Fed are still on the cards. But the same by the European Central Bank (ECB) and Bank of Japan (BOJ) demand trickier manoeuvring.

This is an area that warrants close monitoring since volatility will likely persist. At least for now, fears of Japan-like deflation in US and Europe are effectively gone. But OECD is worried global growth is not yet self-sustaining. It’s strength in 2018 is largely due to monetary and fiscal policy support – and lacking in rising productivity gains and sweeping structural reforms. In Europe, the “clock is ticking”; without reforms, more populist uprisings will appear as the upswing ages and then fades. US inflation is not only returning to the Fed’s 2% target, but also likely to exceed it. In Europe, consumer prices were last still lower than a year ago – below the ECB’s target of just below 2%. Fear of the spectre of deflation has led BOJ to remain cautious about tapering its monetary easing program. Will just have to wait and see.

IMF warns that the world’s US$164 trillion debt pile (at 225% of GDP) is bigger than at the height of the financial crisis a decade ago. One-half was accounted for by US, Japan and China. What’s needed is for US fiscal policy to be recalibrated to bring down the government debt to GDP ratio (80%) and for China to deleverage its US$ 2.6 trillion private debt. There is no sign either is being done which runs the risk of triggering yet another financial crisis.

Growth will falter

Growth in US can slow considerably when the boosts from last year’s tax-cuts in US fades in 2019 and 2020. IMF now warns that US will grow at about one-half the 3% annual pace forecast by the White House over the next 5 years, reflecting the effects of growing massive fiscal deficit and continuing trade imbalance. For US, sluggish productivity remains a key determinant. In 2Q18, GDP picked-up to rise 4.1% (2.2% in 1Q18) the fastest pace in nearly four years, reflecting broad-based momentum.

But worker productivity advanced 1.3% from a year earlier, consistent with the sluggish 1.2% average annual rate in 2007-2017, well below the better than 2% annual average since WWII. Spending by consumers, businesses and government as well as surging exports all appeared solid in 2Q18. The expansion enters its 10th year this month, building on what is already the second longest expansion on record. Faster growth which has helped to drive the unemployment rate to its lowest level in 18 years, fueled quick corporate profit growth.

Median estimates place GDP growth at 2.8% in 2018, 2.4% in 2019 and 1.8% over the long run. But everyone has growth slowing next year because of falling business and consumer sentiment, reflecting trade disputes with China and many US allies, and uncertainty whether rising business investment is sustainable.

The big concern is the economy overheating – already, it is bumping up against capacity constraints as labour markets tighten. Still, the consensus is that the next downturn will not arrive until 2020. Most economists expect 3% inflation over the next year. What worries me most is the deteriorating global political and strategic environment.

Not so much the economic outlook directly. The world is changing too much, too fast.

So much so, the geopolitical situation is getting worse – open warfare between Israel and Iran, the disgraceful state of Palestine, and uncertainties surrounding Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, and lack of leadership in Europe. Trade barriers are causing much anxiety. It is as though what’s put in place since WWII isn’t worth a damn anymore.


Europe and Japan

Latest indications from the Brookings-FT Index for Global Economic Recovery (Tiger) show global growth has peaked and momentum has started to fade. Indeed, financial markets are already reflecting mounting vulnerabilities. With weak economic data in 1H’18, Europe and Japan have since cooled. In late 2017, eurozone was still growing at 3.5%: Germany at 4%, France 3%, Italy 2% and Spain 3.5%. But activity slackened to only 1.2% in early April; even Germany recorded a sharp dip – down to only 1%, reflecting waning monetary easing effects and supply-side constraints. The outlook is for a strong above trend upswing for the rest of the year. OECD now expects GDP growth in 2018 to be 2.2% (2.6% in 2017) and in 2019, 2.1%.

For eurozone, the window for reforms is closing – ranging from the implementation of dual currencies for its members to putting European Parliament in charge of economic policy, including the euro-budget. Japanese GDP shrank 0.1% in 1Q18 despite a rise in capital investment. Household spending unexpectedly fell. Still, recovery is expected to be driven by a weak yen brought about by monetary stimulus (BoJ has been buying assets at US$740 billion a year to drive down long-term interest rates). But underlying inflation is stuck at 0.5%. BoJ’s goal remains at keeping real interest rates (after inflation) as negative as possible, as long as the economy performs. OECD forecasts growth in Japan to be 1.2% in 2018 (1.7% in 2017); the same in 2019.

China and BRICS

Many emerging markets (EMs) are still enjoying momentum from 2017, but there is growing concern about rising debt and vulnerabilities to capital flight as interest rates in US rise. For those recently emerged from recession, viz. Russia, Brazil and South Africa, their urge to return to strong levels of activity remains sluggish.

China and India have fewer concerns for their immediate outlook. Still, they need to reform their economies to help raise living standards to catch up. The main challenges will be to execute particular reforms – not just to the financial system but also to SOEs and local governments, including getting rid of corruption.

China’s GDP rose 6.7% in 2Q’18, the slowest pace since 2016. Retail sales held up rather well as did exports. Still, measures to curb rampant borrowing are biting – investments in infrastructure and manufacturing by SOEs and local governments have since slackened. These efforts, in the midst of headwinds from abroad (especially protectionist tariffs), have led to downgrades in growth for the rest of the year. IMF now forecasts GDP growth in China to average 6.5% in 2018 (6.8% in 2017) and about the same in 2019.

Recent depreciation of China’s currency, the yuan, exposes crucial vulnerabilities within the world’s second-largest economy as it faces escalating trade tensions with the US. The currency posted its biggest ever monthly fall against US$ in June (3.4%) and has since lost more ground. This slide marks a departure for the currency often regarded as an anchor of stability for Asia and other EMs.

As Beijing assesses the options, it finds itself between a rock and a hard place because (i) People’s Bank of China (PBoC) intervention means selling its US dollar stash of reserves – which stood at US$3.11 trillion in June; (ii) it could instead raise domestic interest rates, thereby making the currency more attractive which might help to shore up the yuan. But it also risks weakening an already slowing Chinese economy just as the trans-Pacific trade war starts to bite; and (iii) it could impose stricter controls on China’s capital account which will likely spook overseas funds that have rushed into China’s domestic bond and equity markets this year at an unprecedented rate.

However, to internationalise the yuan, China has to keep fund flows relatively unencumbered. The PBoC has sensibly pledged to keep the RMB “generally stable.” In July, China implemented a mix of tax cuts and greater infrastructure spending citing growing uncertainties, as it ramps up efforts to stimulate demand to counteract a weakening economy.

As for India, I wrote extensively on what’s happening there (my July 2018 column: “India: Chugging Along but Needs More Firepower” refers).

What then are we to do

As I see it, China and China-India centred Asia is now the heart of the world economy. Their steady growth has been a source of stability in an otherwise unsteady world.

Of late, developments in China received more scrutiny than usual because of the context: Chinese stock market has since fallen into bear territory, and a growing trade dispute with the world’s largest economy, US. Despite China’s astonishingly sustained expansion, the economy is widely considered vulnerable because growth in output has been underwritten by an even faster increase in debt.

The nation’s gross debt – both public and private – is now estimated at over 250% of GDP. The worry is not just the volume of debt but its quality. China’s domestic policies encourage high savings.

Those savings, held in banks, have been funneled to companies, especially SOEs. The credit quality of the loans is hard to assess but is likely to be uneven. China has since begun to slowly tighten the credit taps, with even tighter rules on shadow banking and more scrutiny for both local government financing and public-private investment projects.

At the same time, a sharp increase in the number of defaults by corporate issuers has revived anxieties about Chinese debt. In my view, it is the tighter credit conditions and defaults, rather than worries about a trade war, that best explain the recent 22% decline in the Shanghai Composite index from its January highs.

Tightening credit policy is also a compelling explanation for the weak macro-economics. Credit growth fell, and growth in fixed investment followed. This appears to be having some effect on consumer sentiment as well.

No doubt, Trump’s tariffs on US$50bil of Chinese imports (and threatens US$200bil more) will have a direct (but unlikely to be catastrophic) impact on growth. But China is now an investment-led rather than an export-led economy.

Still, it is the knock-on effects that are most feared. If the escalation of hostilities leads to a reduction in foreign direct investment in China, the long-term impact could be significant. True, China may be facing a delicate moment economically.

But given China’s deepening role in the world economy, any pain that the US manages to inflict on it would be quickly shared with the US and the broader world – at a moment when Europe’s economy is slowing, and many EMs looking unstable.

On the whole, China’s economy will remain strong and resilient. Whatever happens, I think this won’t change the Chinese situation much.


By Lin See-yan – what are we to do?

Former banker Tan Sri Lin See-Yan is the author of The Global Economy in  Turbulent Times (Wiley, 2015) and Turbulence in Trying Times (Pearson, 2017). Feedback is most welcome.

 

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Trapped in US-China trade war when 2 elephantine economices fight …


Tit for tat: The trade scuffle between US and China threatened to escalate to a full-scale war when Beijing fired back with punitive taxes on a wide range of US goods entering China – Reuters

The dispute between the two countries is real and has escalated. Malaysia is feeling the heat, but its palm oil sector is set to shine in this conflict.

THE US-China trade war drummed up by Washington last month threatened to escalate to a fullscale confrontation when Beijing fired back last week with punitive taxes on a wide range of US goods entering China.

And Malaysia, being an open economy with huge exports to China and the United States, is feeling the heat of the tit-for-tat measures rolled out by the two largest economies in the world.

President Donald Trump has given several reasons to act against China. A key reason is trade imbalance and US large trade deficit, which he attributed to China.

In 2017, China exported US$505bil (RM1.95 trillion) in goods to the United States, which in turn exported US$135bil (RM522.4bil) in goods to China.

The Trump administration has also alleged that China sought to misappropriate US intellectual property through joint venture requirements, unfair technology licensing rules, purchases of US technology firms with state funding and outright theft.

Last month, Trump slapped Beijing with punishing tariffs on the import of steel and aluminium products, and warned that there would be higher taxes on about 1,300 Chinese products worth US$50bil (RM193.5bil).

China, which has often stated that it does not want a trade war as it would hurt all, retaliated last Monday by imposing additional duties of 15% to 25% on 128 US products worth up to US$3bil (RM11.6bil). Pork, recycled aluminium, steel pipes, wine and fruits are on the list.

After being criticised by its own elites that it was too soft in its retaliation, China’s State Council announced on Wednesday that it planned to impose additional tariffs of 25% on 106 US products into the country, including soybeans, aircraft and cars. The import value of the goods on the list in 2017 was US$50bil.

Beijing’s Wednesday response came soon after the US Trade Representative Office released details of 1,333 Chinese imports worth about US$50bil that it planned to hit with 25% tariffs, with emphasis on industrial and hi-tech goods.

Global Times, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China (CPC), said in an editorial on Wednesday before its State Council’s statement: “China’s countermeasures should deal a heavy blow, hitting what the United States fears most. We strongly recommend starting with US soybeans and corn products. The ruling GOP will pay a huge price.”

It noted that nervous US soybean farmers, who were big supporters of Trump during the presidential campaign in 2016, had run advertisements to oppose launching a trade war against China.

China’s former finance minister Lou Jiwei reportedly said at a recent forum: “If I were in the government, I would hit soybeans first, and then cars and planes.”

By imposing punishing tariffs on US soybeans, Beijing will hurt US major farmers, given that China was the second largest importer of US agricultural products last year, buying US$19.6bil (RM73.5bil) of goods with 63% spent on soybeans.

As reducing US soybean imports would leave a shortfall for Chinese edible oil consumption and animal feed, this would need to be filled by imports from other countries. One source could be palm oil from Malaysia.

“Malaysia’s palm oil growers would stand to enjoy a windfall gain if China reduces the intake of soybeans from the United States, though our competitors like Indonesia also hope to sell more to China,” says economist Lee Heng Guie, executive director of SocioEconomic Research Centre (SERC).

In fact, the futures contracts of Malaysian crude palm oil (CPO) rose on Wednesday after China’s announcement. The positive impact on CPO prices continued on Thursday.

However, the local stock market – like other markets in the region – plummeted, as many investors believed more tit-for-tat measures covering more industries would be unveiled in this spat. The FBM KLCI lost 1.88% to close at its nineweek low of 1,815.94 points.

The local stock market has been weakening due to fear of this trade war. The technology stocks are particularly jittery as the US tariffs are seen as targeting mainly the Chinese electrical and electronic (E&E) and machinery sectors.

“In our view, the sectors that could be affected by the US-China trade war due to recently proposed import tariffs are semiconductors, building materials and ports in Malaysia,” said CIMB Research in a report on Thursday.

As Malaysia exports many E&E products and parts to China, local players within this supply chain are likely to feel the heat.

“We estimate Malaysia’s ultimate exposure to the United States – including via intermediate goods to China for assembly into final products destined for the United States – at 10% of GDP, about half of which is in electronics products,” Nomura Research says, adding that another 8% is exposed to China’s final demand.

While exports to China account for 13.5% of total annual exports of Malaysia, exports to the United

States make up 9.5%. And E&E products form the biggest export item to both countries.

Nomura sees US trade protectionism and a sharper-than-expected slowdown in China as posing risks to the Malaysian economy, as exports account for 71% of its GDP.

This trade conflict has been listed by Moody’s as a global risk this year.

Consultancy Oxford Economics says the escalation of the trade war could knock 0.5% off global growth in 2019.

Although earlier this year many analysts and business groups in the United States had warned that Washington would not win in this trade war, Trump charged ahead nevertheless.

The modern and economically mighty China, under President Xi Jinping, will punch back decisively and swiftly, many have warned.

The pain points of China are not easy to find. Over a decade ago, Beijing had realised it could not rely on the low value-adding export processing industries.

The country is now focusing on developing its high-technology sector and expanding the domestic consumer market to cut down on reliance on exports.

With so many odds against America, why would Trump insist on taking on China?

According to an analysis by Hong Kong-based International Chinese Newsweekly, the rise of American nationalism and Trump’s gearing up for the mid-term elections is the key reason for the president’s plunge into a trade war.

His focus is on midterm elections and keeping a Republican majority in Senate and Congress. But he will have to deal with the possible backlash from the first round of USChina trade war once it goes full on.

Apart from the soybean sector, the United States’ aircraft and automobile sectors will be hit.

According to South China Morning Post, Boeing Corporation delivered 202 planes to China in 2017, or 26% of its global total. The company has projected that in the next 20 years, China will need 7,240 new planes valued at about US$1.1 trillion (RM4.26 trillion).

On the auto sector, the United States sold more than US$10bil (RM38.7bil) worth of vehicles to China. Last year, General Motors sold 3.9 million cars to China, or almost 39% of its global total. The company expects sales in China to grow to five million by 2020.

The Hong Kong newspaper also warned that if China discourages its nationals from visiting the United States, the impact on US tourism will be painful.

In 2016, three million Chinese visitors and students spent US$33bil (RM127.7bil) while in the United States. The US Department of Commerce expects Chinese visitors rise to 5.7 million by 2021.

The other weapon China could weild against Washington is off-loading its US treasury bonds. This will have an impact on the dollar and US interest rate.

Bejing’s holding of US treasury bonds was close to US$1.2 trillion (RM4.6 trillion) at end-2017.

How long the current trade tension will last is anybody’s guess, given Trump’s unpredictable character. The world still remembers that he showered Xi with praises before turning his back on China.

But one thing is certain: if US protectionism and the trade war escalates, it will hurt not only the two major economies, but also countries which have trade links with the two powers.

“The global repercussions will be highly disruptive and damaging on trade and economy if the US-China trade war deepens and impacts more products and countries. In such widespread trade conflicts, Malaysia’s trade will be significantly dampened,” says Lee from SERC.

By Ho Wah Foon The Star


When 2 elephantine economies fight

Upping the stakes: Trump has ordered his
administration to consider imposing tariffs on an additional US100bil of
Chinese imports. Chinese President Xi Jinping had earlier hit back with
US50bil worth of tariffs on US imports.

Will Malaysia be caught in the middle?

The trade war between the world’s two largest economies is not showing any sign of stopping just yet.

US president Donald Trump initiated the trade confrontation by announcing additional 25% tariffs on Chinese imports worth US$50bil, citing China’s unfair trade advantage. In retaliation, China initially announced higher tariffs on US$3bil imports from the US, but later raised it to US$50bil.

Now, Trump has ordered his administration to consider imposing tariffs on an additional US$100bil of Chinese imports.

While it remains to be seen whether these tit-for-tat announcements will materialise or eventually fizzle out, economists and fund managers generally agree that the US-China trade fight will affect Malaysia’s local industries and several stocks on Bursa Malaysia.

However, they differ on the extent of the impct from the escalating trade war.

In an email interview with StarBizWeek, Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute research and business development director Lau Zheng Zhou says that Malaysia will be hit with losses in trade opportunities, as both the US and China constitute 25% of Malaysia’s total trade.

He points out that investors may adopt a “wait-and-see” approach, which could cause certain sectors to slow down and hence disrupt manufacturers’ resource planning and projection.

“As opposed to exporting finished goods, Malaysian exports have footprints along an extensive supply chains across sectors in Asia such as automobiles, electronics, oil and gas, and machinery.

“With heavy tariffs being imposed by the US, Malaysian firms will be slapped with rising input costs and therefore falling demand for their value-added component products.

“Our logistics sector may also be affected if global trade slows down.

“But China’s tariffs imposed on the US may not directly impact Malaysia as it is strategically designed to cause damage to the US agricultural producers,” he says.

On the other hand, Malayan Banking Bhd group chief economist Suhaimi Ilias indicates that the potential impact from the US-China trade spat is small, or only 0.3% of total trade value, at this juncture

However, greater risks could arise if the additional tariffs spill into services trade and investment.

“In any case, US tariffs on solar panels, steel and aluminum will have some impact on Malaysia but we understand that the International Trade and Industry Ministry is seeking exemptions for these since Malaysia is in talk with the US on the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) as an alternative following the US pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“Meanwhile, China’s tariffs on US products may result in some trade diversions or substitutions that may result in increase demand for Malaysian products from China, and one potential area is chemical or petrochemical products which is a major industry and export for Malaysia,” states Suhaimi.

Currently, the Trump administration has proposed a long list of 1,333 items, which would see the imposition of an additional 25% tariff.

These items include robotics, aircraft seats, machine parts, semiconductors, communication satellites and television components, among others.

It is worth noting that there will be 60 days of public review before the tariffs take effect. Observers believe both China and the US will re-negotiate their trade terms during this period in order to prevent a full-fledged trade war.

More items affected

In the event of the US government imposing tariffs on the additional US$100bil worth of Chinese imports as per Trump’s suggestion, more items will be affected.

China, on its part, has announced that it will slap a similar 25% additional tariff on 106 products from the US, which include soybean, automobiles, chemicals and aircraft.

According to Lau, China’s tariffs are well-targeted to hurt rural, agriculture-dependent communities who were big supporters of Trump during the 2016 presidential election.

Many companies in Malaysia have been involved in the export of raw materials and intermediate goods to China and the US, which are later re-packaged or used in the production of other finished goods.

These finished goods, in turn, are exported by both China and the US to one another as well as to other countries.

Indirectly, the Sino-US trade spat will affect these exporting companies from Malaysia.

Suhaimi calls for accommodative monetary policy and the implementations of major investment and infrastructure projects to buttress Malaysia’s economic activities, if the trade dispute continues to worsen.


Fund managers’ take

Fortress Capital chief executive officer Thomas Yong says that the Malaysian semiconductor sector will be most negatively affected due to the trade spat.

“This is because most semiconductor companies in Malaysia export intermediate semi-conductor components to end-product manufactures in the US, and a tariff on these end-products could indirectly lower the demand from these component players,” he says.

He cautions investors to monitor the ongoing trade war between the US and China closely.

“If the tariffs are implemented, the impact will be very detrimental to the ongoing global growth recovery.

“A trade war will negatively affect stock valuations all around the world,” he says.

Similar to Yong’s perspective, Areca Capital chief executive officer Danny Wong also reckons that export-based Malaysian businesses in the electrical and electronics domain could be affected, especially if their exposure to both China and the US is significantly large.

However, both fund managers believe that the Sino-US trade spat may not be entirely bad for companies in Malaysia.

Wong tells StarBizWeek that the US’ Federal Reserve (Fed) may take necessary actions to remedy any unwarranted implications to the economy.

“If the trade war continues to prolong and ultimately weigh down global growth and trade, it could affect the Fed’s future actions.

“Hence, there is a likelihood for the Fed to put the expected interest rate hikes on hold.

“In the event of such decision, dividend stocks in Bursa Malaysia will definitely benefit.

“On top of that, the real estate investment trust (REIT) stocks will also benefit from the situation, as Reits thrive in the low interest rate environment,” he says.

Meanwhile, Fortress Capital’s Yong adds that stocks related to palm oil production may also benefit from the trade spat.

“Since crude palm oil (CPO) is a substitute for soybean oil, the Chinese tariff on American soybeans can potentially allow China to substitute to CPO to meet their vegetable oil consumption needs, in turn supporting the demand and prices for CPO.

“As Malaysia and Indonesia both account for more than 80% of global palm oil supply, oil plantation companies from these two countries could potentially benefit from the much needed price boost amid the current soft CPO price.

“However, it remains uncertain if China will substitute all of the current soybean oil consumption to CPO, as there are quite a number of other vegetable oils available in the market,” he says.

Earlier, StarBiz reported that the American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) believes Malaysia may see an increased amount of foreign investments, particularly from the US, if the brewing trade war between the US and China escalates further.

Businesses from the US and other countries could make Malaysia an alternative regional production hub for several goods instead of China, to avoid the additional tariffs imposed by the US on products imported from China.

The additional 25% tariff levied on the imports from China would likely make Chinese goods pricier. Under such circumstances, global manufacturers may opt to establish their operations in Malaysia or outsource their production to a domestic company.

Commenting on whether the Sino-US trade war will place Malaysia as an alternative to China in the eyes of investors, Lau says it is not reasonable for investors to do so.

“However, the trade spat may rather increase foreign direct investments, especially from China, in industries with heavy use of steel and aluminium or value-added manufacturing of innovative consumer products.

“This can avoid a ban, restrictions or high tariffs on products which are associated with China,” he says.

By Ganeshwaran Kana The Star

 

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Lost cause: An employee arranging imported American apples for sale at a grocery store in Beijing, President Donald Trump says the US lost a trade war with China ‘years ago’. In a tweet Wednesday after China announced a list of US products that might be subject to a 25 tariff, Trump said: ‘We are not in a trade war with China, that war was lost many years ago by the foolish, or incompetent, people who represented the US.’ — Bloomberg
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Did Trump just launch a trade war?


LAST Thursday, US President Do­­­nald Trump signed a proclamation to raise tariffs for steel by 25% and for aluminium by 10%.

It sent shockwaves across the world not only because of the losses to metal exporters, but due to what it may signify – the start of a global trade war that will cause economic disruption and may damage, if not destroy, the multilateral trade system.

The United States, joined by Europe, has been the anchor of the global free trade system since the end of World War II. In practice, this rhetoric of free trade was hypocritical because the West continues to have very high protection of their agriculture sector, which cannot compete with those of many developing countries.

Moreover, the developed countries champion high intellectual property rights standards through an agreement in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), under which their companies create monopolies, set high prices and make excessive profits. This is against the free competition touted by free-trade advocates.

In manufacturing and metals, the developed countries have pressed the others to join them in cutting or removing tariffs and to expand trade, through negotiations in the WTO and its predecessor, the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade).

They have argued that poorer countries can best grow richer by cutting their tariffs, thus benefiting consumers and forcing their producers to become more efficient.

Trump’s move upends the ideology of free trade. According to his America First philosophy, if cheaper imports displaced local steel and aluminium producers, these imports must be stopped because a country must make its own key products.

Since the US has been the flag-bearer of the free-trade religion, this has profound effects on other countries. If the leader has changed its mind and now believes in openly protecting its industries, so too can other countries. The basis for liberal trade is destroyed and the old rationale for protectionism is revived.

The WTO rules allow countries adversely affected by imports to take certain measures, but they have to prove that the producers of exporting countries unfairly receive subsidies or set lower prices for their exports. Or they can take “safeguard” measures of raising tariffs but only for a limited period to help affected local producers to adjust.

Trump however made use of a little-used national security clause (Section 232) in the US trade laws to justify his big jump in steel and aluminium tariffs. The clause allows the President to take trade action to defend security. The WTO also has a security exception in GATT Article XXI.

But what constitutes national security is not clearly spelt out either in the US or the WTO laws, and countries can abuse this clause.

The Trump administration tried to justify invoking the security factor by saying steel and aluminium are needed to make weapons of war. But this was undercut by giving exemptions from the increased duties to Canada and Mexico due to their membership of Nafta, the North American Free Trade Agree­ment that includes the US. The exemptions for reasons unrelated to security exposes the security rationale as fake.

Other countries are angry and preparing to retaliate. The European Union has drawn up a list of American products on which its member countries will raise tariffs. China warned it would make an appropriate and necessary res­ponse.

At the WTO General Council on March 8, the US action was attacked. Many countries condemned the unilateral move and the use of the national security rationale. Canada said the security issue “may be opening a Pandora’s box we would not be able to close”.

Brazil expressed deep concern about an elastic or broad application of the national security exception. India said the national security exception under GATT should not be misused and unilateral measures have no place in the trade system. China argued that the over-protected domestic industry would never be able to solve its problems through protectionism.

Many WTO member states will most likely take the US to a dispute panel, and the outcome will have strong consequences. If the panel rules for the US, then other countries will view the decision as permission for all countries to take protectionist measures on the grounds of security.

If the decision goes against the US, it will strengthen the anti-liberal trade faction and tendency in the Trump administration to ignore or even leave the WTO.

Malaysia will be affected by the new tariffs as it exports 96,000 tonnes of steel to the US. But this is small compared to how much steel we import.

The bigger blow to us is the US measure in January to slap up to 30% tariffs on solar cells and panels. Malaysia is the largest photovoltaic cells exporter to the US, with a market share of 30%. The tariff increase will have a big impact on the solar industry, a solar company chief was quoted as saying last month.

The next big protectionist move from the US may come in a few weeks when Trump decides what action, if any, to take against China after considering a Commerce Department report on China’s trade and intellectual property practices.

If strong action against China is announced, China can be expected to take strong retaliatory action.

That may escalate the trade war that is already under way.

Martin Khor is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

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