U.S.’ latest Section 301 investigation a repeated mistake

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For no good reasons, the United States recently launched a Section 301 investigation into China’s maritime, logistics and shipbuilding sectors, and groundlessly accused China of the so-called “unfair practices,” threatening to impose new restrictions including raising the tariff rates for both steel imports and aluminum imports from China.

Such unilateral and protectionist practice not only hurts the economic and trade relations between China and the United States, but also undermines global economic stability and development.

The petition for the Section 301 investigation initiated by the United States into China’s maritime, logistics, and shipbuilding sectors is filled with unfounded accusations. It misinterprets normal trade and investment activities as damaging to U.S. national security and corporate interests, and wrongly attributes America’s own industry issues to China. This not only lacks factual basis but also goes against economic common sense.

The petition describes the so-called “unfair trade practices” of China as the “biggest obstacle” to the recovery of the American shipbuilding industry. However, as the United States itself has stated, only 1 percent of the world’s commercial vessels are produced in the United States today, and its ranking has dropped from the first place in 1975 to 19th place today.

Multiple researches have shown that the U.S. shipbuilding industry has lost its competitive edge years ago due to overprotection.

According to the Financial Times, the shrinkage in the U.S. shipbuilding industry is a result of several factors, including a hollowing out of shipyards and construction capacity, a decrease in the number of marine engineers and architects, and an overall decline in competitiveness.

The United States accuses China of adopting so-called “non-market” practices while providing discriminatory subsidies worth hundreds of billions of dollars to its own industries. This accusation is baseless. In fact, the development of Chinese industries is a result of enterprises’ efforts to advance technological innovation and actively join market competition. 

Take the shipbuilding industry as an example. Chinese shipbuilding companies have strengthened technological innovation, accelerated high-end, intelligent, and green development, actively participated in market competition, and honed their skills in the global market. The development of China’s shipbuilding industry is a natural outcome of international industrial development and China’s comparative advantages.

It’s not the first time for the United States to shift its domestic problems overseas in an attempt to find a cure. The last U.S. administration initiated a Section 301 investigation against China and raised tariffs, which was ruled by the WTO as a violation of its rules. 

The terms of the Section 301 are typical examples of unilateralism, and the United States, driven by domestic political needs, has launched a new Section 301 investigation, openly calling for arbitrary adjustments to tariffs on Chinese products, which is a repeated mistake. 

Under the excuse of so-called “national security,” the United States politicizes economic and trade issues, formulates discriminatory industrial policies, and sets numerous trade barriers, which will only harm others without benefiting itself.

The shipping industry bears over 80 percent of the global trade transportation and is crucial for global trade and economic growth. The United States’ trade bullying practices not only fail to address its own deep-rooted problems, but also disrupt global industrial and supply chains, hindering the healthy development of the world economy.

In recent years, the United States has implemented a number of measures to suppress China’s economic, trade, and technological advancements. The list of sanctions against Chinese companies keeps growing, which is not about “de-risking” but rather about creating risks. 

History has repeatedly proven that for China and the United States, one country’s success is an opportunity for the other. Faced with new and evolving situation in China-U.S. business ties, the two sides should stay committed to mutual respect, mutual benefit and equal-footed consultation, follow economic and market rules, expand and deepen mutually beneficial business cooperation, respect each other’s development rights, and work for win-win outcomes for the two countries and the world at large.

China is willing to develop its relationship with the United States based on the principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and win-win cooperation. At the same time, China will continue to firmly safeguard its national sovereignty, security, and development interests.

The U.S. side should face its own problems, stop abusing unilateral trade measures, immediately cancel the additional tariffs imposed on China, and return to the rules-based multilateral trading system as soon as possible.

(Zhong Sheng is a pen name often used by People’s Daily to express its views on foreign policy and international affairs.)



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