U.S.-China Economic Relations: Present and Future

By Richard H. Holton; Wang Xi et al. | Go to book overview

5. Protectionism: A Curse for Both China and the United States

ZHANG JIALIN

Sino-U.S. trade relations began in 1972, with President Nixon's "ice breaking" first visit to China. As a result of joint efforts, the annual growth rate of Sino-U.S. trade during the past fifteen years averaged 20 percent, the highest growth in China's foreign trade with any country. Bilateral trade value in 1986 reached US $7.3 billion, making the United States China's third largest trade partner, behind Japan and Hong Kong. China is now the sixteenth largest trading partner of the United States. In 1986, trade with the United States accounted for more than a fifth of China's exports and about 10 percent of China's imports.

But increases in bilateral trade have been far too small, relative to the potential trade volume. The U.S. protectionist policy is the main obstacle inhibiting the future development of bilateral trade. In light of many years of huge trade deficits, the U.S. government has enforced a great number of protectionist rules, and new, more restrictive trade legislation is currently being considered in the U.S. Congress.

Among China's export products, textiles are the most important. Over the past years, textiles have constituted about 50 percent of Chinese exports to the United States. The strictly protectionist policy toward textile imports followed by the U.S. government for decades has not only harmed both the Chinese and U.S. economies and the economic cooperation of the two countries, but has threatened their political relations as well. The long-run mutual interests of the two countries require that U.S. policymakers scrap protectionism and resolve the dispute between China and the United States over textiles.


U.S. Protectionist Policy Toward Textile Imports

In the case of textiles and apparel, the United States has the most protectionist policy in the industrialized world. In the late 1950s the United States sought "departure" from the General Agreement on Tariffs

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