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  • The Centre of Expertise on Trade,
    Investment and Public Policy

    War of words continues as US rebukes China on protectionism

    Published On: 25 January 2018

    The ongoing rift between the US and China over global trade took another turn on Wednesday when US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross hit out at Beijing’s ‘protectionist behaviour’.

    Earlier this week, China said the US posed an ‘unprecedented challenge to the multilateral trade system.’

    But Mr Ross, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, asserted that the US was not protectionist and suggested it was far less so than China.

    “The Chinese for quite a little while have been superb at free-trade rhetoric and even more superb at highly protectionist behaviour,” Mr Ross said.

    According to Bloomberg, Mr Ross ‘challenged the other panelists — including World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevedo and Cargill Inc. Chief Executive Officer David MacLennan — to quickly name a nation that’s less protectionist than the U.S. He got no responses.’

    “Before we get into sticks and stones about free trade we ought to first talk about, is there really free trade or is it a unicorn in the garden,” said Mr Ross.

    The Commerce Secretary also claimed China’s tech ambitions were “a direct threat,” Reuters reports.

    “And it is a direct threat that is being implemented by technology transfers, by disrespect for intellectual property rights, by commercial espionage, by all kinds of very bad things.”

    The latest exchange highlights the ongoing tensions between the US and China over trade practices and what the future of the rules-based order should look like – a theme Asia House will be exploring at a major conference in Dubai in April.