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Oregon has too much to lose in a trade war that has no winners

By Luo Linquan | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-04-13 00:22

A memorandum signed in Washington D.C. on April 3 outlined possible 25 percent tariffs on a list of 1,300 Chinese products worth $50 billion. In turn, the Chinese government was forced to take countermeasures by announcing it would impose tariffs of 25 percent on 106 types of products from the United States worth $50 billion within 60 days if America's plan becomes a reality.

A possible trade war causes worries across the U.S., from the East Coast to the West. That's true in Oregon, which counts China as its largest trade partner and export market.

I am reminded of July 5, 2017, when Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed the House Concurrent Resolution 39 passed both by Oregon House of Representatives and Senate. That resolution expressed Oregon's willingness to enhance mutually beneficial economic and trade cooperation with China.

As one of the eight states that enjoy trade surplus to China, Oregon's exports have expanded 55 times during the past 20 years and reached $4 billion annually. That has helped create more than 20,000 local jobs and brought substantial profit to Oregon companies, especially integrated circuit manufacturers, timber producers and hazelnut farmers. Meanwhile comparatively cheap, quality products imported from China have not only helped Oregon maintain a relatively low inflation rate but also improved real purchasing power of local customers.

A number of Oregon leaders, including Gov. Brown, Secretary of State Dennis Richardson and state legislators have led trade delegations to China to explore the market for Oregon products and business. Today, China is not only Oregon's largest export market, but also the state's largest source of international visitors.

Oregon's Nike is a good example of another win-win cooperation between China and the U.S. The company entered China in 1981 and as of 2017, Nike's sales in China exceed $4 billion in 2017, accounting for 13 percent of its total global sales. China is Nike's largest market outside the U.S., as well as its fastest growing market in the world. I met Sean O'Hollaren, a Nike senior vice president, at a reception hosted by the Chinese Consulate General for business leaders last month in San Francisco. He told me that China is one of Nike's most important markets and manufacturing centers, and helps to support Nike's research and development staff and revenues in Oregon. In our conversation about China-U.S. trade disputes, he believed trade relations between these two countries should be win-win -- not a zero sum game. I agree with Mr. O'Hollaren.

In the almost 40 years since China and the U.S. established diplomatic relations, both countries and both peoples have benefited from economic and trade cooperation. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce reports that in just four decades, bilateral trade volume increased by 233 times from $2.5 billion in 1979 to $583.7 billion last year, creating numerous jobs, revenues and taxes to both countries.

However, the free-trade basis for China's economic cooperation with the U.S. and Oregon may be in danger under the unilateral protectionist actions. This opening of Pandora's box exposes the U.S. to the risk of retaliation. A possible trade war could harm China's interests, undermine Chinese-American relations, affect people's daily lives and China's economic and trade cooperation with Oregon.

Trade wars have no winners. The door of negotiation is always open. China wishes to resolve trade disputes with the U.S. through dialogue and consultation on the bases of equality and mutual respects.

Luo Linquan is the consul general of the People's Republic of China in San Francisco.

Published in the newspaper The Oregonian on April 11. 

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