Recent probes based on politics: experts
The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has recently come up with protectionist measures on trade issues with China in order to build support among American voters and the measures are based on politics more than economic considerations, experts said on Thursday.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced new self-initiated anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations into imports of common alloy aluminum sheets from China, according to a statement published on the website of the U.S. Department of Commerce on Tuesday.
It is the first trade measure of this kind to be launched in over a quarter of a century, the statement noted.
"There has been rising protectionism since Trump took office. The total number of tightened import restrictions has already doubled over the past year," He Weiwen, senior fellow with the Beijing-based Center for China and Globalization, told the Global Times on Thursday.
As the U.S.' largest trading partner, China has been blamed for the growing U.S. trade deficit, He noted. "However, imported steel and metal products only account for a small part of the total imports," he said, which means the U.S. restrictions probably won't lead to any positive result in terms of resolving the trade deficit.
In 2016, imports of common alloy sheets from China were valued at an estimated 3.6 million, the U.S. Commerce Department statement said, accounting for just 0.1 percent of the total imports from China to the U.S..
In terms of aluminum, U.S. imports of semi-manufactures from China decreased by 18 percent in 2016 compared with 2015, according to the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resources Program, and Canada remained the leading supplier of imported aluminum for the U.S.
Before the self-initiated probe, the Trump administration also approved a Section 301 Investigation into Chinese companies on intellectual property issues, but few business representatives have testified at the 301 hearing, Lin Guijun, vice president at the University of International Business and Economics, told the Global Times.
"Some politicians and lobby groups might not have been satisfied with Trump's stance on trade issues, so as a result, the administration took a hard line with China on the matter," he said.
The current problems that the U.S. manufacturing sector is now facing were not caused by foreign countries, and China has not dumped these products, Mei Xinyu, research fellow with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times on Thursday.
"The recent moves are not reasonable from the trade and economic perspective, but they may have some impact on the political side," Mei said.
Trump has recently been criticized by his former political rival Hillary Clinton, who remarked that his administration has both entered and then retreated from diplomacy, media reports said on Tuesday. Doubts have also been raised about how many campaign promises the president has kept.
Trade war unlikely
Still, Chinese experts believe that the latest investigation will not lead to a full-scale trade war between China and the U.S., with the two countries having recently signed trade deals worth 3.5 billion.
"It's an individual case, and there's no sign that the U.S. will raise its import tariffs in a wide range," He said.
During Trump's state visit to China earlier in November, deals were signed in sectors ranging from agriculture to high-tech products.
As Trump is facing mounting pressure over failing to deliver on his campaign promises, "he has to give more consideration to his ardent grassroots supporters," Mei noted.
The U.S. has filed a brief to the WTO, which laid out their legal arguments for why China does not deserve the designation of a "market economy," senior U.S. officials were quoted as saying in a New York Times report on Wednesday.
Lin said that "China and the U.S. share sound trade relations in general, but when it comes to the 'market economy' or trade frictions, China has to work on negotiation tactics while continuing to pursue its economic restructuring."