The US and Chinese trade officials concluded their talks on quotas Washington has imposed on some Chinese textile products in Beijing on Tuesday. But Sino-US trade rows still linger.
Bilateral talks enhance mutual understanding and are conducive to solving disputes, but negotiations will lead nowhere if the US side remains adamantly unrepentant about its protectionist trade policies.
In the past two months Washington has forced anti-dumping duties on a wide range of Chinese products.
The so-called "safeguard'' quotas have also been employed to block imports from China in a professed bid to protect American industries.
On November 18, the US Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements (CITA) decided to impose quotas on Chinese exports of knit fabric, dressing gowns and brassieres.
Loud US objections against the import of Chinese products, textiles among them, seemed justified against the backdrop of its significant trade deficit with China, which stood at US$42.7 billion in 2002.
But it is not China's textiles or other low-end imports, but rather the US restriction on its exports of high-tech products to China that should be blamed for the huge trade deficit.
There are plenty of rules and procedures in place to prevent US high-tech exports to China. Washington's restrictions on China-oriented high-tech exports in a number of fields have adversely affected its trade balance.
China has always adhered to a mutually beneficial policy with its trade partners.
During his visit to the United States in December, Premier Wen Jiabao expressly reiterated the Chinese Government's sincerity for handling trade disputes by expanding trade and economic cooperation.
Keeping its word, China is readily increasing imports from the United States to help solve the trade row in a constructive way.
Chinese purchasing groups have inked deals worth more than US$9 billion with US companies over the past two months, and another US$2 billion deal is expected to be signed shortly.
Without reciprocal moves from the United States to lift its ban on high-tech exports, however, China's efforts will not suffice to improve the US trade imbalance.
By sticking to its protectionist policies, the Bush administration will do little in saving domestic industries. It will only pamper them and cost them the best time for restructuring to sharpen their competitive edge. And since few US makers produce the three products the CITA imposed quotas on, the US policy will not add to job opportunities.
Even if Chinese imports were blocked, the "triumph'' would not render US industries a long period of prosperity since competitive products from other countries would ultimately swarm in, given the high production cost in those US industries.
Moreover, US consumers will suffer from high prices in a market of inadequate competition.
The votes from industrial workers are vital for the Republicans in the upcoming US elections. But such vote-wooing political expediencies will put at stake America's long-term relations with its trade partners.
Partisanship should not block the United States from pursuing a rational trade policy.
(China Daily January 16, 2004)