Trumpeting 'America First' harms Americans first

The protectionist and unilateral measures would only harm Americans first.

Trumpeting "America First" rhetoric, the US administration has been antagonizing major trading partners by rolling out tariffs on the grounds of being taken advantage of, but the protectionist and unilateral measures would only harm Americans first.

The United States has touted tariff hikes as a way of reducing trade deficits with China and even misguided the public by scapegoating China for its domestic problems. However, the picture of China the US administration has been attempting to depict is not convincing.

Recent figures and statistics showed the trade frictions the United States has initiated have not boosted its economic growth. On the contrary, various global and US domestic institutions have warned of drag-down to the US economy.

If the United States imposes 25-percent additional tariffs on all imported goods from China, the US GDP will decline by 1.01 percent, with 2.16 million job losses and an additional annual burden of US$2,294 on a family of four, according to a February report by Trade Partnership, a US think-tank.

A paper published in May by economics researchers from Harvard University, the International Monetary Fund, University of Chicago and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, using data collected at the border and at retailers, showed "nearly complete pass through of tariffs to the total price paid by importers," which indicates that "the tariff incidence has fallen largely on the United States".

The spillover effects are also corroborated by Chinese statistics showing that against the backdrop of the US-initiated trade disputes, direct investment by Chinese companies in the United States shrank by 10 percent year on year to US$5.79 billion in 2018.

Instigating and accelerating trade wars harm not only the United States and China but also the world at large at a time when countries have become ever more intertwined, said Zheng Yongnian, director of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore.

By weaponizing tariffs, the United States breaks the multilateral trading system, brings chaos to global supply chains, dampens market confidence, and poses serious threats to the trend of economic globalization.

It is the Cold-War mindset that eats at some Washington politicians, who portray the US-China relationship in nationalistic terms, Diao Daming, an associate professor with China's Renmin University, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Washington's extreme right provocateurs have identified China as the greatest economic and national security threat the United States has ever faced, but at the subnational level the scenario is that China is being welcomed as an energetic and trustworthy partner.

At a China-US governors forum held recently, Governor of Kentucky Matt Bevin said: "When China is strong, it is good for America. When America is strong, it is good for China."

The past 40 years have attested that the world's two biggest economies stand to lose from confrontation, and cooperation is the only correct choice for both countries. A healthy China-US relationship, despite its complexity and diversity in nature, would benefit people on both sides of the Pacific commensurately.

The handful of China hawks in Washington should drop unfounded allegations and political speculations. Being obsessed with "America First" would only harm the American farmers, workers and businesses, exactly those who Washington claims it is trying to protect.

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