Removing disputes in China-US trade stood high on the agenda of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's four-day visit to the United States. Wen made it clear he was not looking for a trade war when talking to American business people and bankers on Monday.
Instead, he went to great lengths to explain that China's trade policy is governed by a five-point code of conduct, namely: Trade is a win-win deal; disputes can be solved through expanding trade; dialogues and negotiations should be developed to prevent disputes from getting worse; negotiations should be done on the basis of fairness; trade issues should not be politicized.
When disputes occur, the attitude and actions of both sides count.
It is unrealistic to assume Wen's visit alone will be a cure-all for trade disputes between China and the United States. However, it raises hopes that the views the top leaders of the two countries exchanged person-to-person will create a platform to better settle the disputes.
China and the United States have enjoyed the merits of economic cooperation and trade, with bilateral trade volume hitting as high as US$100 billion.
The two countries consider each other important trade partners, and both reap enormous economic benefits from Sino-US trade.
The United States is China's second largest trading partner, while China has become the fourth largest trading partner of the United States.
Setting up trade barriers will harm Chinese as well as American companies and its people. The overall interests of the United States will also suffer.
The trade imbalance between China and the United States should be viewed objectively and resolved through further development of bilateral economic and trade relations.
The United States has recently imposed new quotas on some made-in-China products. It has also blocked some of its exports to China for technological reasons.
Building barriers is not constructive. It hurts both and is counterproductive to the global multilateral trading system.
Advancing bilateral economic and trade ties is the best way to resolve the trade imbalance.
China has begun to do what it can.
The latest multi-billion-dollar contracts China signed with US companies in November are undoubtedly meant to lubricate Sino-US trade relations.
Yet, to fashion them into real win-win deals for bilateral economic ties, the United States needs to readjust its trade approach with China.
Growing domestic unemployment has led many US politicians to simplistically put all the blame on China even though Chinese exports to the United States account for only about 1 percent of the US gross domestic product. They have come up with protectionist tools.
When bilateral trade is hijacked by domestic politics, the losers will be people of both countries who have over the years enjoyed the benefits of growing trade.
China's new purchases in the United States not only point to the tremendous opportunities in the Chinese market for US companies, but manifest China's sincerity to reduce trade surpluses to further boost bilateral trade relations.
In spite of the dent on its exporters' competitiveness, China will start cutting the export tax rebate rate by an average of 3 percentage points next year.
Differences emerge time and again. However, trade will grow with the help of meaningful negotiations that could reduce the disputes.
It is time to tear down trade barriers and talk about solutions.
(China Daily December 10, 2003)