China-US relations

Donald Trump’s talk of ‘America first’ and fair trade smacks of double standards, says China

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 January, 2018, 10:02am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 January, 2018, 3:12am

China’s state-run news agency has criticised US President Donald Trump’s speech suggesting his “America first” policies would not harm other nations and that he fully supported free trade as long as it was “fair and reciprocal”.

Xinhua said in a commentary published on Sunday that Trump’s comments at the World Economic Forum in Davos amounted to double standards and his protectionist policies would ultimately become a stumbling block when dealing with global partners.

Trump said in his comments on Friday that his “America first” policy did not mean “America alone” and that there had never been a better time to do business with the US.

Trump took credit for growth in the US economy, but added: “The United States will no longer turn a blind eye to unfair economic practices, including massive intellectual property theft, industrial subsidies and pervasive state-led economic planning.”

He has previously levelled the allegations against China, but did not criticise the country by name during his speech.

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China reported a record-high trade surplus of US$276 billion with the US last year, with Trump pledging to try to narrow the trade deficit.

The Xinhua commentary said: “Global trade should be mutually beneficial, and [countries] should not set double standards.”

It added there were many reasons behind the trade deficit, such as strong domestic demand, fiscal deficits, capital inflows and a strong currency.

Too much focus on external factors that contributed to the deficit while ignoring others was “not objective and is biased”, Xinhua said.

US citizens are able to buy cheap products through imports and US companies have profited investing overseas, it added.

It was the US that was guilty of trade protectionism in blocking the acquisition of American companies by foreign investors in the name of national security, it added. The US Congress is working on expanding sectors covered by national security legislation to tighten the screening of foreign investment, especially from China.

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The Trump administration announced duties on Chinese solar panels last week, saying unfair trade practices meant that Chinese manufacturers were able to undercut US firms. Analysts say Trump is likely to impose more tariffs and investment restrictions on Chinese firms in the coming weeks.

Xinhua said the US has dominated global trade rules and gained massive economic benefits, but is now facing competition from emerging economies.

“As in a boxing match, contest more games in a good physical state rather than changing the rules in poor shape, while saying ‘me first’,” the commentary said.