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Report: De-escalation of trade war would lift jobs, incomes in US

By ZHAO HUANXIN in Washington | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-01-15 04:14

Exports to China supported 1.2 million jobs in the United States, which would see its employment and household incomes further benefit during the Biden administration from a de-escalation of the trade war. [Photo/VCG]

Exports to China supported 1.2 million jobs in the United States, which would see its employment and household incomes further benefit during the Biden administration from a de-escalation of the trade war, according to research released Thursday.

"What we've seen over the past few years is that raising tariffs does little more than raise costs for American families and shrink their opportunities," Craig Allen, president of the US-China Business Council, said at the release of the report on the value of the US-China economic relationship.

The trade war with China hurt the US economy and failed to achieve major policy goals outlined by the Trump administration, noted the USCBC report, which was done in partnership with Oxford Economics, a global advisory firm headquartered in England.

"Some in Washington are intent on severing ties with China, but this report shows that doing so would have staggering repercussions for the United States, costing billions of dollars in growth in the process," Allen said.

The report estimated the peak impact of the trade war to be 245,000 American jobs lost due to tit-for-tat tariff actions since 2018.

In all, the cost of the festering trade war amounted to around 0.5 percent of US GDP over 2018 to 2019, estimated Oxford Economics.

The report estimated that if the trade war continues to escalate, US real GDP growth could be reduced by $1.6 trillion over the next five years, and the US would have 732,000 fewer jobs in 2022 and 320,000 fewer jobs in 2025.

The report, released less than a week before President-elect Joe Biden takes office, showed that improved trade relations between the world's top two economies would help the US economy, which remains mired in a still raging COVID-19 pandemic.

Even a moderate rollback in tariffs could render economic growth and stimulate employment during the Biden administration and beyond, according to the report.

"Under our trade war de-escalation scenario, where both governments gradually scale back average tariff rates to around 12 percent (compared with around 19 percent now), the US economy produces an additional $160 billion in real GDP over the next five years and employs an additional 145,000 people by 2025," the report said.

US household income would be $460 higher per household as result of increased employment and incomes as well as lower prices, according to the report.

Biden, who has yet to announce a new trade policy, has underscored the "need to be able to build the very best in the United States and sell the very best around the world".

"That means taking down trade barriers that penalize Americans and resisting a dangerous global slide toward protectionism," Biden wrote in an article in the 2020 March/April issue of Foreign Affairs magazine.

"Policymakers would be wise to heed that advice and work toward rebuilding the strong bonds that exist between the US and China, to the benefit of both economies and the world," noted the USCBC and Oxford Economics report.

Alex Mackel, lead economist for Oxford economics and the main author of the report, said the incoming Biden administration and policymakers should keep in mind that trade and investment is not a "zero sum game".

"Both the US and Chinese economies can gain from these bilateral trade and investment flows, and both economies are ultimately better off by engaging in a more cordial relationship," Mackel told China Daily.

"It's also just important to highlight the risks there are through economic decoupling, and how much that could cost the US economy," he added at an online news conference on Thursday.

The US has left in place most of the new and increased tariffs on $360 billion worth of Chinese-made goods following the phase one trade deal it signed with China nearly a year ago.

During the Trump administration, tariffs have resulted in "weaker trade flows" to and from China, with each round of tariff increases leading to declines in bilateral imports and exports, according to the report.

It said that in 2019, the US exported $106 billion in goods to China, a decline of 18 percent from 2017, while imports fell by 11 percent over the same period.

The combination of higher tariffs, reduced trade flows and heighted tensions damaged the US economy, firms and households by raising consumer prices and dampening investment while hurting company competitiveness and disrupting supply chains, noted the report.

Still, exports to China in 2019 supported 1.2 million jobs in the US, and as of 2018, 197,000 people in the US were directly employed by Chinese multinational firms, according to the report.

It further noted that US companies invested $105 billion in China in 2019.

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