White-collar jobs disappearing from the US and Britain are popping up in China Rising trade and political tensions between China and the US will only intensify and might never go away, a top executive of a major US-based management consultancy said yesterday. He pointed out that more and more multinationals are trying to cut costs by outsourcing not just manufacturing but also back-office functions to low-wage markets like China and India. 'For many companies, it's a balance issue,' said David Hunter, regional chief executive of New York-based consulting giant Accenture. 'On the one hand, you want to maintain jobs in-country. But on the other hand, companies have to become globally competitive as trade barriers come down.' Of Accenture's 80,000 employees worldwide, around 15,000 work as support staff for clients. Accenture recently set up and manages a financial and accounting centre of 150 people in Shanghai on behalf of Singapore shipping giant Neptune Orient Lines. It also established a business support centre in Dalian with 200 employees. It services four multinationals. Mr Hunter believes that within two years, Accenture may employ up to 5,000 support staff in China on behalf of its multinational clients, many of them American. 'Our India centre is close to 5,000 people already,' he said. What Accenture is doing is exactly what US President George W. Bush and his administration fear the most: taking white-collar jobs from the United States or elsewhere in the developed world and relocating them to developing nations, where wages are a fraction of those in cities like New York or London. In the past three years, the US has lost more than 2.4 million jobs, many of them due to American companies relocating manufacturing and increasingly white-collar business services jobs. Morgan Stanley chief economist Stephen Roach called the loss of jobs from the developed to the developing world 'wage arbitrage'. Though multinationals gain financially by outsourcing labour to developing nations, their nation's politicians grimace at job losses at home while wages rise abroad. 'This year the noise level from the US will be particularly high,' said Li Gong, the country manager of Accenture in China. 'It is election year, after all.' Mr Hunter said politicians in the west should take heart in knowing that their nations will not lose all of their service jobs to low-wage markets such as China or India. 'Many companies just relocate their labour-intensive back-office jobs abroad, and they still keep the higher-skill jobs back home. It is a matter of balancing,' he said. He concedes that the tension between the US and China may just be the beginning of a longer-term struggle that may last for decades. 'It may never go away,' he said.