In general, a country that attempts to use trade policies in order to boost national income at the expense of other countries will probably provoke retaliation. Retaliation can possibly result in economic, political harm as well as damage the trade relationship between involved countries. Despite what the leaders claim, domestic audiences, including businesses, manufacturers, farmers, and consumers bear the burden of uncertain economic prospects. In many cases, the resulting trade war between two or more interventionist governments will leave all countries involved worse off than if they had adopted a hands-off approach in the first place.
Amid the trade war with the US, China’s economic growth decline from 6.8% in 2017 to 6.6% in 2018, the lowest figure in almost 30 years. China is clearly being hurt, particularly on the technology front. China’s slowdown has also put some of the U.S.’s most important industries in economic limbo, namely automobiles export and soybeans. Even the tech giant Apple is not confident in their revenue forecasts, saying that the iPhone is significantly more expensive than those of domestic competitors like Huawei. Most analysts argue that Trump ‘s expansionary fiscal policies will create jobs for the American people in the short-run but ultimately render the US fewer jobs and higher prices over the long term.
The World Economic Forum estimates that a full-blown US-China tariff war could reduce global GDP growth by 0.7 percentage points (pp) to 2.8% in 2019. The impact would be more significant on China’s growth (-0.9 pp), due to direct trade effects, and on Europe (-0.8 pp), due to indirect trade effects and financial links whereas US GDP would decelerate by a lesser margin (-0.4 pp). Other regions also are also generally witnessing a deceleration in momentum.
The two countries are in a truce and have set March 1st as the deadline to reach a new deal. Without one, the US will impose higher tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods, which Trump had originally planned to implement in January. Meeting deadline would ameliorate the situation that has contributed to increasing unease across the globe, whereas failed negotiations could cause an adverse reaction from business leaders and send markets tumbling.
Like a game of chicken, if Trump or Jin Xiping backed down from what they stand firm, they would appear in a weaker position and face domestic backlash coming from their support bases. There is high hope that countries heavily dependent on the two powers can facilitate talks among leaders from both sides to reach a settlement (this is why we came up with the concept of “multilateral approach” in the WTO committee of MUN@TIU 2019). Yet, geopolitical implications still constrain countries from pressuring the US and China to make greater concessions.
Which country can withstand the fallout from the trade conflict longer, which country will defect first? Will the two be able to resolve their fundamental differences and end the escalating tensions before a global catastrophe occurs? We don’t know for certain but the consequences are unobscured: soured relations, delaying investment, slow growth, and millions of lives across the world being affected.
Justin Worland, "The China Trade War Affects United States Industries Too," Time, January 10, 2019,
Lily Kuo, "China's Economic Growth Slowest since 1990 amid Trade War with US," The Guardian, January 21, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/21/chinas-economic-growth-slowest-since-1990
Mario Mesquita and Itaú Unibanco, "How a Trade War Would Impact Global Growth," World Economic Forum, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/01/how-trade-war-would-impact-global-growth-tariff/.