China Warns U.S. Approach on WTO Risks ‘Old Traps’ of Trade Wars

What Trump's Trade War with China Would Look Like

China voiced strong discontent after President Donald Trump’s administration suggested that the country isn’t bound by World Trade Organization decisions.

The U.S. Trade Representative said last week in an annual document laying out the president’s agenda that Americans aren’t directly subject to WTO decisions and it will "aggressively defend American sovereignty" on trade. White House skepticism toward the WTO, the Geneva-based body that referees trade disputes, signals a new willingness by the U.S. to pursue its interests even if it means undermining the global order.

"The multilateral trade system will then be only an empty title, and we would even fall into the same old traps such as the trade war in the 1930s," Sun Jiwen, a Ministry of Commerce spokesman, said Thursday at a briefing in Beijing.

China firmly supports the WTO and the multilateral trade system, and urges major organization members to abide by the rules, defend the trade body’s authority, and enhance its status in the global economic governance system, Sun said.

"The U.S. has repeatedly called for fair trade, and in our eyes, those complying with WTO rules are truly fair trade," he said, reiterating that a trade war would hurt both countries. 

The ministry also expressed opposition to U.S. penalties against ZTE Corp. for violating U.S. laws restricting the sale of American technology to Iran. The networking equipment maker agreed to pay as much as $1.2 billion to settle the case.

China is firmly against the U.S. using its laws to punish Chinese companies, and urges the U.S. to properly handle the case to create a good environment for healthy development of bilateral economic ties, Sun said.

— With assistance by Miao Han

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