US issues trade ultimatum to China


US issues trade ultimatum to China

Nick Beams

7 May 2018

US representatives issued a series of demands in Beijing during talks on May 4, ranging from an insistence that China take no action against US measures undermining its development of high-tech industries to the impossible ultimatum that it cut its trade surplus with the US by $200 billion within two years. These demands are not intended as the basis for negotiations, but to escalate economic conflict and military tensions.

“The US demands amount to a call for unilateral Chinese disarmament ahead of a potential trade war and for Beijing to abandon key elements of its industrial policy, which have led Washington to grow increasingly wary of China as a long-term economic rival,” the Financial Times commented.

China economy expert Eswar Prasad, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told the newspaper: “These meetings could end up going into the books as a formalisation of hostilities rather than as a basis for a negotiated settlement.”

The US delegation included Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and anti-China trade hawks, US trade representative Robert Lighthizer and White House trade policy adviser Peter Navarro. The demands were set out in a four-page document entitled “Balancing the Trade Relationship.”

The Trump administration claimed it sought to “facilitate candid and constructive exchanges between the two sides.” In fact, the US document resembles the ultimatum handed to Serbia by Austria in July 1914, which led to the outbreak of World War I.

The US had previously demanded that China take immediate action to reduce its $375 billion goods trade surplus with the US by $100 billion. This has been doubled to $200 billion—a reduction of $100 billion in…

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