Op-ed: US swims against tide of trade globalization

The US is flowing against the tide of globalization by advocating protectionism to seek its own profits, and that will leave itself less room for development.

Recently, the US government has been threatening to increase tariffs on imported goods as an act of trade protectionism and imposing its unreasonable will on other countries.

US President Donald Trump holds that his country, the world’s largest economy, is a “victim of free trade”, and has “been treated unfairly” in the global trade system. Taking such an allegation as a banner, the US sees itself as standing on “a moral high ground”.

But as a matter of fact, the country’s excuses and its bullying policies have drawn mounting criticism around the world.

Any imposition of tariffs, without going first to the World Trade Organization (WTO), is sure to prompt a chorus of criticism not just from Beijing but from US industry,” the Wall Street Journal warned before Trump signed the memorandum that could impose tariffs on imports from China based on the so-called Section 301 investigation into alleged Chinese intellectual property and technology transfer practices.

Even if it is permitted under WTO rules, it would upend the practice of bringing disputes first to the Geneva trade body,” said another article published by the Wall Street Journal.

Trade frictions should be solved based on the rules and within the framework of the WTO, German newspaper Handelsblatt pointed out.

The US has inappropriately adopted trade protectionism, only to find that its way of solving trade frictions is supported by nobody, even its allies.

After the US announced it would impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum products based on the Section 232 investigations, the European Council denounced that the excuse of “national security” taken by the US is untenable.

At the meeting of the WTO Council for Trade in Goods, the EU, Japan, South Korea and Australia warned that the trade barriers set up by the US will threaten the rules-based multilateral trade system.

British International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told BBC that Britain is a firm supporter of the WTO, and the country will abide by international trade rules.

All these clear responses are undoubtedly a strong blow to the US.

The so-called Section 301 and Section 232 investigations, which were derived from the trade law of the US in the Cold War era, is inevitably unfair as the country itself acts not only as police, prosecutor, but also judge of international trade.

Bypassing the mature rules of the WTO accumulated in more than 20 years of existence, the US’ rash choice goes against international rules and the times, making the world turn its back on it.

More importantly, the US excuse for eliciting trade barriers is groundless. Take its steel industry for example. Statistics show that between 2011 and 2017, the country’s steel output dropped by 2.6 percent, while the industry created thousands of new jobs since 2009.

Obviously, the “national security” excuse is invalid. The purpose of the US is to nakedly protect its industry through increasing tariffs, which is sabotaging the rules for fair trade.

The US’ fanaticism for and blind confidence in trade war reveals its opportunistic approach of holding high international law when it sees fit and discarding international law when it sees otherwise.

When dealing with trade issues, the country acts like a bull that rushes into a porcelain shop, recklessly trampling on the rules at the cost of the current global trade system.

It is due to the US’ overbearing obstruction that new members of the WTO’s appellate body are unable to be timely appointed, severely weakening the organization’s efficacy.

More evidence proves that the fair trade demanded by the US is in essence to let the US benefit, regardless of other countries. That conduct could barely earn the country any support in the 21st century when globalization is the prevalence.

Without rules, there will be no order. As one of the major makers of international trade rules, the US has become an obvious breaker of them judging from what it is doing. Its move has put the world under the threat of being in disorder, and made the entire world disappointed and anxious.

International trade should be established upon rules, not strength or power,” said former WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy, pointing out that the rules-based multilateral trade system might need some adjustments, but the prerequisite is to first consolidate it.

In the era of globalization, protectionism, which flows against the tide, is at most a lonely and arbitrary move, which only narrows the development space of the executor and widens the scope of choice for others.

(By Zhong Sheng from People’s Daily)