Now, however, we see global growth in trade lagging behind general economic growth for the first time in decades. In part, this is the product of the expanding trade war between the world’s two largest economies. In part, it is because of a more general outbreak of protectionism around the world. Both these factors now threaten continued global prosperity.
We recognize, as countries with longstanding economic relationships with China, the real difficulties regarding a number of Beijing’s trade and economic practices. We understand, for example, the challenges which arise from Chinese policies on intellectual property and technology transfer, its restrictions on access to its markets, and its subsidization of private and public firms that are active in the global marketplace. We believe these practices need to change in whichever countries may use them. But it is particularly important in China, because it is the world’s second-largest economy.
At the same time, as countries long committed to the principles of free trade, we do not see the ever-widening tariff war, launched initially by the United States, as an effective way to resolve international trade and economic disputes. Tariffs, by definition, are the enemy of free trade. Their cumulative impact, particularly combined with the current resurgence of protectionism worldwide, only depresses economic growth, employment and living standards. Tariffs raise the cost of living for working families as consumer prices are driven up.