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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Nov. 19)

Editorials from Korean Dailies 07:09 November 19, 2018

G2 spat over trade
US, China should solve dispute through dialogue

An Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit is usually a forum at which the leaders of the 21 member countries from the region discuss how to expand economic collaboration and promote free trade. But this year's summit was marred by a spat between the U.S. and China over their escalating trade war.

It was regrettable to see U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Chinese President Xi Jinping trade barbs in combative speeches at a business forum in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, Saturday, a day before the APEC summit.

Xi criticized Washington for waging a trade war with China based on President Donald Trump's "America first" policy. Xi urged the world to "say no to protectionism and unilateralism." He also warned that protectionist actions were short-sighted and doomed to fail.

On the other hand, Pence made it clear that U.S. tariffs would remain in place unless Beijing "changes its ways." Pointing out that the U.S. had imposed tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods, he said this could more than double. He also lashed out at China's checkbook diplomacy with regard to the Asian giant's massive "Belt and Road" infrastructure initiative.

Xi and Pence engaged in the word of words not only over trade but also other issues such as diplomacy and security. However, this is not surprising given the two countries' long-held rivalry.

China has become more assertive with its rising economic power. It has not hidden its ambition to replace the U.S. as the world's sole superpower. For its part, the U.S. has been trying to contain China's rise. Trump is making all-out efforts to implement his signature "America first" policy to make the U.S. "great again."

Against this backdrop, it is inevitable for the two countries to go head to head over various issues, including trade, defense and security. The ongoing trade war is a typical case of a clash of interests between Washington and Beijing. Both sides show little sign of backing down from the tit-for-tat confrontation. The U.S. particularly is playing hardball because it has a $375 billion trade deficit with China.

But the problem is that the rising wave of trade protectionism will have a catastrophic impact on the global economy as well as the G2 economies. As Xi pointed out, there are no winners in a trade war. That is why the U.S. and China should find a solution through dialogue and compromise.

Despite his harsh rhetoric against the U.S., the Chinese leader opened the possibility of tackling the issue through negotiations. Xi said, "We believe that there exist no issues that countries cannot resolve through consultations" as long as negotiations take place in a spirit of equality and mutual understanding.

We hope that Trump and Xi will narrow their differences and move toward a negotiated solution when they meet at next month's G20 summit in Argentina. Both leaders need to realize that failure to do so could lead to unpredictable consequences. Trump must keep in mind that free trade and multilateralism are better than protectionism and unilateralism.

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