A US/China trade deal?

Will they, won’t they do a deal? The US side says there is a deal, it just needs to be written up fully. They suggest China will agree to buy more US food and goods, in return for the USA cancelling the threatened new tariffs this week and rolling back a little of the ones already imposed. China is not so sure.

The truth is since the tariff war began the arguments between China and the USA have broadened. There is the dispute about technology transfer and Intellectual property, the US Democrat led challenge to China on human rights, the issue of currency manipulation and the questions of state enterprises and unfair competition. None of these are easy to resolve, and all require trust and understanding that is difficult to conjure. The US needs to know how any new rules against IP theft or state subsidy would be enforced.

Mr Trump has highlighted the lack of symmetry or fairness in much of the world trading system. China is his main target, but he has also queried the higher tariffs on US cars in the EU than the other way round and has won a longstanding case in the WTO over subsidies to Airbus representing unfair competition to Boeing.

There are always some disputes going on around the world, but today tariffs and trade disagreements spring up in various places. There is the trade dispute between Korea and Japan with grievances going back to the last World War. There are trade frictions around Kashmir where they are related to the political tensions.

Freer trade is usually a good thing, but there are concealed within current so called free trade patterns injustices, subsidies and anti competitive practises. The present manufacturing downturn worldwide is often attributed to the so called trade war. In practice it is the widespread change of policy and attitudes towards diesels and partly to petrol vehicles that has done more to power the downturn than the imposition of new tariffs.


  1. GilesB
    December 17, 2019

    The most successful industry of the modern age is electronics and its daughters communications and information processing.

    Networking, and it’s concomitant interchange of data, has forced the adoption of global standards coordinated by international bodies which are apolitical and not driven by the UN or IMF. The standards say nothing about human rights, or state aid, or the environment. Perhaps they should say something about privacy, but they don’t.

    The internet has done more to alleviate world poverty and reduce international tensions and conflict than any number of conferences and treaties.

    Other industries should follow the same path. Countries can have their own standards if they wish. But the only standard applies for international should be ones adopted by every country on the planet.

    And keep the politics out of it. If countries want alignment on human rights, they can sign a treaty on human rights. If some want alignment on environmental maintenance they can sign a separate treaty.

    Just don’t bring these issues in to trade

    1. Ian Wragg
      December 17, 2019

      Politicians see trade as a weapon. Particularly the EU.
      Just follow the negotiating pattern.

    2. Nig l
      December 17, 2019

      Indeed and if you gave a thumping majority, you do not have to crumble to every Tom, Dick and ‘politically correct, virtue signalling, snow flake’ Harry.

    3. oldtimer
      December 17, 2019

      Keeping politics out will be unavoidable if there are charges of theft of intellectual property – copying of patented designs, processes and the like. This is not new. The pharmaceutical and other industries have long suffered from reverse engineering of their products. Even in mature industries like car manufacture everyone tears down competitors products looking for ideas they can copy.

  2. Mark B
    December 17, 2019

    Good morning.

    President Trump is keeping to his electoral promises. Now there is a novel thing !

    The Airbus dispute vindicates President Trump and I am sure much else will.

    1. Martin in Cardiff
      December 17, 2019

      The WTO is a US puppet.

      Were it not there would have been no case against Airbus.

      1. dixie
        December 17, 2019

        @mic – Are you claiming the EU provided zero subsidies to Airbus?

        BTW, The EU lost a WTO case with China in 2016, is the WTO a puppet of China as well?

      2. Edward2
        December 17, 2019

        The USA brought a case.
        It was listened to by WTO legal experts, eminent experts as you would say.
        They agreed in favour of the USA.
        I note you like all the rulings you agree with, but shout out bias and puppet when they don’t go the way you want.

  3. Fedupsoutherner
    December 17, 2019

    Your last sentence is so right. Imagine all the mechanical jobs that will go once there are no diesel or petrol engines to service. There isn’t much to look at on an electric vehicle. I can see much fuel poverty being created when we are all forced down the electric route for heating and cooking. After moving to a house with no gas my bills have rocketed. No laughing matter for some. Let’s tell the EU we want a free trade and just go for it. I’m sure the USA will accommodate us.

  4. jerry
    December 17, 2019

    Who knows what either side will do, logic says both will sign a new trade deal but if one side or other think they can obtain political advantage (home or abroad) from not signing then they will not sign.

  5. Lifelogic
    December 17, 2019

    “The Tories can restore some climate sanity. Job-killing policies won’t wash with the party’s new voters but there is room for a green compromise” say Natascha Engel in the Telegraph today.

    No need even for a “compromise” just cull all the mad Carbon and renewable subsidies agenda. Let’s have cleaner air in cities by all means, but most sensible physicists like Corbyn’s brother and Freeman Dyson rightly do not think C02 (plant and tree food) is a real and significant problem at all – quite the reverse – it greens the planet wonderfully and increase crop yields.

    To call CO2 “pollution” is idiotic.

    December 17, 2019

    Do we trust the EU to act in good faith? Of course not. Why should Trump trust a government that crushes the freedoms of its own people in the name of Chinese Communism?

    Trump’s been an unmitigated success and his hard-line approach to a Communist government has proven correct. In fact he should push harder. The US economy is incredibly flexible and can bend and warp to continual change. The Chinese economy less so as its government is spending huge amounts of financial energy trying to buy social agreement

    The actions of the Washington political class and their vile attempts to circumvent the will of the American people will not end pleasantly. When elected politicians confront and then reject the legitimacy of the system that elected them, then we can be sure that authoritarian attitudes have taken hold within.

    1. Mitchel
      December 17, 2019

      Actually it looks like the Chinese are proving the more flexible.They have re-sourced their agrifoods to Latin America,New Zealand,Russia,etc;They have successfully removed US components from Huawei phones and they’ve stopped buying LNG from the US just as major new US export capacity is coming on stream,causing a glut and price fall.

      And Mr Trump has an election to win,President Xi doesn’t.

      China and Russia are also undercutting his stance on North Korea too,putting him in a difficult position if he wants a “deal”.

  7. margaret
    December 17, 2019

    Whilst we need to continue trading with as many countries freely , we simply need to put more effort into what we can do for our own country . Reliance on others has always left us in a bad position. Farming can take the direction of all the up and coming new gardeners , changing microcosmic climate using poly tunnels ( and other methods for entrepreneurial brains) overcoming the negative abusers who say things cannot be done.
    Industry and technology can be given a boost , slowly building up our own resource practically without wild brain schemes such as HS2 . Business competition is only seen as this if we allow one area to dominate. Do we want overpriced restaurants , terraces of houses with super interiors and money worship or do we want to gradually increase our own productivity to become percentage wise ,more self sustaining where we are not subject to the whims and turns of government of all other countries ?

    Fabulous Labi Sifree song( not sure how to spell) ‘There’s something inside so strong ‘…and I feel that ” we are going to do it anyway”

  8. Martin in Cardiff
    December 17, 2019

    It would help if the US would stop blocking the appointment of new judges for the disputes resolution provisions of the WTO.

    This is an existential problem for the WTO, and exposes the folly of those who said that a no-deal situation with the European Union was unimportant as the UK could trade “perfectly satisfactorily” on WTO terms.

    If those terms cannot be enforced, then what is the WTO?

    1. Edward2
      December 17, 2019

      It is part of USA tactics pressing China for a decent trade deal.
      Which is gradually working.

      You don’t seem to understand trade still goes on internationally without formal trade deals and the WTO is in the background as a set of guide rules.

      1. Martin in Cardiff
        December 17, 2019

        I wonder what you would say if the ECJ could not have any replacement judges and so stopped working.

        1. dixie
          December 18, 2019

          As my intention in leaving the EU includes leaving the overriding jurisdiction of the ECJ I could not care less what happens to the ECJ.

        2. Edward2
          December 18, 2019

          But the WTO hasn’t stopped working.
          Over 90% of the nations in the world continues to use WTO frameworks to conduct their trade.
          It is a mutually successful voluntary arrangement.
          If nations have disputes they can sort it out between themselves or use international arbitration even if the WTO disputes resolution process is currently having a minor disruption.
          Meanwhile international trade grows and carries on.

    2. libertarian
      December 19, 2019


      Its the EU that is currently the WORST culprit at breaking WTO protected market agreements

      Trade carries on regardless of trade agreements , one day you will finally wake up to reality

  9. Gareth Warren
    December 17, 2019

    I see great danger in China, the petty negative actions do not get much media but are driven from the top.

    They dominate in manufacturing yet run buy Chinese campaign, they ban the internet, act disrespectfully to our government figures with stunts like not giving airplane ladders and make increasing military threats – especially to those weaker than them. The problems appear to be a mixture of excessive pride and hatred of the western colonial era.

    I like Chinese people, just not their government. Here too much of their success though is due to low wages and low environmental protections, personally I would be happy not trading technology with them.

    I feel the trade deal is a sham, they have more to lose than the US yet I suspect Trump is more concerned about reelection and it will be interesting to see his approach beyond 2020.

  10. BillM
    December 17, 2019

    USA Trade with China in 2018 was $120B Exports and $539B Imports – a colossal deficit of $419B. A huge reason why the problem has to be addressed.
    Likewise in 2018, the USA trade deficit with the EU was $156B. So the USA was running a total deficit of $695 Billion. Is it any wonder the Trump administration wanted to even up those numbers?
    The American people should be asking why their previous Presidents did nothing to address this shocking rip-off. Where tariffs are applied as the Importer sees fit always to the disadvantage of the USA.

  11. Prigger
    December 17, 2019

    his enemies ie Trump’s enemies

  12. Polly
    December 17, 2019

    The US administration has serious concerns about the long term expansionist policies of China and so the issue goes beyond trade.

    After all, as the US is an indispensible market for Chinese goods and greatly contributing to Chinese prosperity, the US is enabling China to construct a global military.

    This in turn leads to vast US expenditure on military hardware to counter the threat US trade has created, and so the US administration rightly believes alternative trading partnerships would be more desirable pending a change in attitude by the Chinese.


  13. zorro
    December 22, 2019

    The reason that we got an “independent” central bank was because Labour needed some political space between it and effective economic policy control to reassure the electorate and financial markets that it would not spend too much and let inflation run out of control.


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