No winners from Trump's trade war? China could prove that wrong

The President's tariffs on Chinese goods came into force this mornings, as other countries affected by his bellicose stance look at ways of bypassing the world's biggest economy

James Moore
Chief Business Commentator
Friday 06 July 2018 11:49 BST
Donald Trump unveils $60bn in tariffs on China for intellectual property theft

So it begins.

US tariffs of 25 per cent on $34bn (£26.7bn) of Chinese goods have come into effect today, firing the first shot in the long feared trade war between the world's two biggest economies.

China is, of course, retaliating with tariffs of its own, while accusing the US of starting “the largest trade war in economic history”.

The trade imbalance between the two means China is going to run out of goods it can penalise before America does.

But don’t imagine that tariffs are the only weapon in its arsenal. And analysts have good reason to feel concerned about the ramping up of tensions between the two.

Donald Trump has said he is prepared to escalate the trade war
Donald Trump has said he is prepared to escalate the trade war (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

That this will, of course, hurt American consumers and businesses, and destroy many more jobs as it protects, seems to be of little concern to a man who delights in division, and feels he has more to gain from firing up his base and generating positive coverage from Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News than he does from making a deal.

Even those who have argued that China merits a more assertive stance when it comes to trade should take note of that.

The man who famously penned the “Art of the Deal” doesn’t appear able to do one because that would involve backing down, something he seems incapable of.

The world looks as if it might just have to hunker down and deal with it. This is the new normal, at least until the next Presidential poll.

The relatively muted reaction of European stock markets indicates a recognition of that fact.

It’s common practice to argue that there can be no winners from all this, but is that true?

There might actually be an opportunity for China. It is not the only country to have been stung by Mr Trump’s tariffs and there is evidence that those in that camp have started talking to each other.

Leaving the US out used to be unthinable. Now, not so much.

Japan has become the second country to ratify the revised Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which the US pulled out of, after Mexico. Singapore has expressed confidence that it will soon join them adding further momentum to the what is now called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Australia, Canada, and New Zealand are on the road. Others soon will be.

There is a real opportunity for China if it continues to open its markets, and can prove itself to be a more reliable partner than the US is. That mightn't be all that hard.

While all this goes on, Britain continues to plough a lonely furrow, its Eurosceptic zealots still apparently seeing Trump’s America as key to realising their discredited dreams of a “global Britain” that doesn’t have any truck with global citizens coming to work here.

Trump’s trade war is going to hurt America. It’s going to hurt a Britain that has been shielded from the consequences of its politicians actions by the global economy's surprising strength, still more.

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