Commentary: It’s impossible for US to reverse global trend of free trade

US President Donald Trump’s visit to Europe ended with rising concerns from the latter who bore a bright hope for an all-round communication with the US before the meeting.

Transatlantic partnership has long been a priority of the US diplomacy, but Trump’s complaints that the European states are “taking advantage” of the US trade has made Europe unhappy.

As a matter of fact, the dissatisfaction of the EU toward the US can date back to a long time ago. The US, in this June, started to impose steel and aluminum tariffs against the EU in disrespect of the latter’s strong opposition, and the EU levied retaliatory tariffs on American products as a response.

But instead of correcting its wrongdoings, Washington then threatened to impose tariffs on all cars assembled in the EU. What’s worse, it provoked another trade standoff with China. The US, misled by the “America first” principle, is seeking to maximize its interests in an arrogant manner.

The US-initiated trade dispute is a battle between unilateralism and multilateralism. Both the Section 232 and 301 investigations were launched based on the country’s domestic laws.

The Section 232 investigation is seemingly applied to judge whether foreign products pose threats to the national security of the US, and the Section 301 investigation is said to protect the trading interests of the country. But as a matter of fact, they are nothing but a unilateral tool for the US to chase profits.

There has been a significant drop in the launch frequency of such investigations since the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Now, by restarting the investigations, the US government is indeed looking for an excuse to pressure on other countries by its trade policies, which has placed serious threats to the multilateral trading system.

The US is disturbing free trade by levying extra tariffs on foreign goods. The world has been working to revive the global economy and promote globalization after the outbreak of financial crisis in 2008.

Important mechanisms such as G20 hold that trade and investment can drive global economic growth, and the world should be devoted to activating the two engines in order to guarantee the smooth run of the economy.

The G20 Strategy for Global Trade Growth endorsed at the G20 summit in Hangzhou was aimed to bring a turnabout of the economy and encourage countries to join efforts for an open world economy. Holding high the banner of protectionism, the US turns its back to the global efforts.

The unilateral trade policies are bullying practices that infringe upon the international rules. Even though China, the EU and Canada have endeavored to control trade disputes with the US through negotiations, the latter reacted with inconsistent stance, betrayed the consensus reached and insisted on invoking trade disputes.

The US willfully exaggerated its trade deficit with China, and even deliberately sidestepped the causes for such deficit, including its low saving rate, the important role of the US dollars as a major reserve currency and its restrictions on exports of high-tech products.

The US is actually shirking its responsibility and laying the blame on others in the name of fair trade. Its move severely violates the WTO spirit, and breaks the reciprocal principle and international rules.

Currently, the victims of the US unilateralism have all taken countermeasures in their own ways, warning the US to stop its wrongdoings and ultimately come back to the normal global trading order.

The US has on many occasions stressed to protect interests of its workers. But disturbing the world with its “America first” principle only leaves itself affected as well.

The inefficient and short-sighted trade and economic policies and conducts of the US have aroused high alert of the world. What the US should do now as a major country is to go back to multilateralism, support free trading system, and safeguard international rules, since that is the trend of the world which is impossible for the US to reverse.

(By Su Xiaohui, deputy director of Department for International and Strategic Studies of China Institute of International Studies.)