Unilateralism harms everyone, says vice premier

Unilateralism and trade wars harm everyone, benefit no-one, trigger larger conflicts and exert a negative impact, Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng said on Sunday at the annual China Development Forum in Beijing amid spiraling trade disputes between the two largest economies in the world.

"The readoption of trade protectionism leads nowhere," Han said in a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the high-profile forum attended by government officials, business leaders and prestigious economists.

His remarks reaffirmed China's stance against a trade war with the US, although US President Donald Trump has been shown to be keen on launching a one-man trade war with China. On Friday morning (Beijing time), the Trump administration announced plans to hit China with up to $60 billion per annum in new tariffs on Chinese imports.

During a phone conversation with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Saturday morning, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He urged concerted efforts to maintain the stability of China-US trade ties.

Mnuchin briefed the Chinese side on the latest development of a Section 301 investigation report released by the US side. Liu noted the report violates global trade rules and is detrimental to the interests of China, the US and the whole world.

The Chinese side is ready and capable of safeguarding its national interests, said Liu, who expressed the hope that the two sides will stay rational and work together to maintain the overall stability of their economic and trade relations.

The two sides agreed to maintain communication over the issue.

A trade war that goes against the trend of globalization was also badly received by business executives and economists.

In his speech on Saturday, this year's forum co-chairman Apple CEO Tim Cook championed free trade.

"Countries that embrace openness, that embrace trade, that embrace diversity are the countries that do exceptionally," Cook said, urging calm heads for China-US trade.

Hope still floats that trade tensions between the world's two largest economies could be eased, market watchers say.

"China is very good at finding compromises, and I think we can possibly avoid a trade war," Frank-Jürgen Richter, a participant at the forum, told the Global Times on Sunday.

What will happen is that the US and China will meet and discuss the pending issues, said Richter, founder and chairman of Horasis, a Switzerland-based think tank.

He noted that pressure from the outside could have a positive stimulus, especially on the financial and regulatory frameworks.

China's IPR protection

At a forum panel discussion on Sunday afternoon, Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen said that the Chinese government's intellectual property rights (IPR) protection efforts have substantially benefited foreign intellectual property owners.

The country forked out $28.6 billion in payment to foreign IP owners in 2017, according to Wang, who stressed the country's IPR protection has yet to be flawless and efforts are still required to enhance IPR protection.

Wang expressed his hope that "China and the US can sit down and try to resolve trade disputes under the WTO framework."

There are no winners in a trade war, and it's important that the two sides are capable of staying sober and take measures to iron out disputes, he added.

That didn't mean China would be passive, analysts noted. China should not give in to US pressure, Richter said. Beijing should "try to turn the pressure into a positive force.

China is the safeguard of an international rule-based system, and should show the US that they are playing according to the rules, he said.

In response to Trump's proposed tariffs, the commerce ministry on Friday unveiled a $3 billion list of US imports ranging from fruit and pork to recycled aluminum that could be hit with higher tariffs.

Wei Jianguo, a former vice commerce minister disclosed Saturday that China is also researching a second and third list of US imports that could be targeted including aircraft and microchips, according to media reports.

"Beijing will likely impose tariffs on soybeans grown in farm states that voted for Donald Trump," DBS economists said in a note sent to the Global Times.

"Other retaliatory measures from Beijing would include banning the import of genetically modified products from the US and delaying trade and investment deals signed during Trump's earlier visit to China. Steering the yuan exchange rate to the weaker side is also an option. "

(Source: Global Times)