China never backtracks in trade talks, but the US did

By Zhong Sheng

Washington lifted additional tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports from 10 percent to 25 percent as the 11th round of China-US high-level economic and trade consultations had just kicked off.

The US, labeling China with “reneging on promises”, claimed that it has seen an erosion in commitments by China, and accused the latter of backtracking on its pledges and infringing upon its major concerns.

It is totally nonsense that disregards facts, and such false accusation on China is nothing but a lie.

Over last year since China and the US started trade talks, China has always promoted the negotiation with utmost sincerity, hoping to achieve an agreement that leads to win-win results based on equality and mutual respect.

The Chinese team was still looking at the big picture and headed to the US for the 11th round of trade consultations even through the US threatened to raise additional tariffs. It demonstrated China’s sincerity to advance the talks to the fullest.

The consultations are a process in which the two sides exchange ideas and build consensus, so it’s normal that China and the US hold different opinions and have repeated discussion on certain issues. If the differences and different opinions in the process of consultations at the work level are often labeled as “going back on one’s word,” then what is the point of consultations?

Every country has its bottom lines in negotiations. China will never make concessions on major issues of principle, and its core concerns must be addressed.

Since the consultations are still in progress and no agreement has been reached, how could the US blame China for “reneging on promises”? The US was also going back and forth during the trade talks, so is this blame applicable to the US?

Washington holds a hegemonic logic that anything goes against its own wills is considered backtracking.

Keeping promises is a moral principle that the Chinese nation has always adhered to.

During the last 40 years, China opened its door for construction and shared the outcomes of its reform and opening up with the world. The contribution it made to the world economy is obvious to all.

The country has always fulfilled its commitments since its accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). By firmly supporting the multilateral system, largely lowering tariffs and reducing non-tariff barriers, and opposing unilateralism and protectionism, China is showing to the world an image of a responsible and faithful major country.

By 2010, China had fulfilled all of its tariff reduction commitments, reducing the average tariff level from 15.3 percent in 2001 to 9.8 percent.

As early as 2007, China had honored all of its commitments on trade in services, and now the breadth of the country’s openness in this sector is close to the average level of developed countries.

Even the Office of the United States Trade Representative has praised China’s performance in the WTO in many of its annual reports, saying the Chinese government has fulfilled WTO commitments.

The US is a major constructor of and participant in the post-World War II international economic orders and multilateral system. It should have led the world in sticking to the multilateral rules, but what the country did was only frequent withdrawals from international organizations and going back on its words.

Its practices have been broadly criticized by the international society. The US exploits only the treaties, clauses, and organizations that conform to its own interests, and slams those not able to help it maximize its profits.

Under the results-oriented “America first” policy, Washington has withdrawn from a number of international organizations and multilateral agreements, escaping from its due responsibilities and obligations.

So far, it has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement, the UNESCO, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iranian nuclear issue and the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Such frequent backtracking practices revealed to the world the hypocritical essence of the US.

The backtracking practices of the US are hurting the rest of the world. The efficacy of the Kyoto Protocol has been largely reduced since the US decided to withdraw from the international treaty in 2001. According to a report released by the Dispute Settlement Body of the WTO, the US is so far the largest rule-breaker among all WTO members, causing 2/3 of the violation cases.

In the recent two years, the US believes that the whole world has been taking advantage of it, turning the “American first” strategy into “American only”. Such irresponsible hegemonic practice would only lead to opposition and indignation from the international society.

The US went back on its words for times since it started trade talks with China a year ago. On May 29 last year, the US tore up the joint statement signed between the two parties to avoid a trade war, declaring to impose additional tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese commodities. On May 5 this year, it once again threatened to raise tariffs, setting a huge barrier for bilateral trade talks.

The US, by adopting trade protectionism, abusing taxation, exerting extreme pressure and blackmailing, has severely damaged international trade order and hurt the interests of its partners. Such practice would also place negative impacts on its own enterprises and citizens. The arbitrary acts of the US increased uncertainty for the future development of global economy and disappointed the international community.

Differences are unavoidable in international trade and economic exchanges, and cooperation remains the only right choice. No country is able to lead the world without cooperation.

It’s better for the US to conform to the trend of time, promote global peace and development, and stop playing tricks for its own profits.

(Zhong Sheng, a homonym in Chinese for “voice of China”, is a pen name often used by People’s Daily to express its views on foreign policy)

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