Turmeric is the new “it” spice. While things are golden for trade in turmeric, less can be said for U.S.-India trade relations as a whole. Tensions have been heating up over the past few years, culminating in the recent announcement from the White House that India could soon be terminated from the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program.
Trade policy is at a historical crossroads — a jump ball, as it were. As we enjoy the NCAA Tournament, let’s look at four similarities between trade and college basketball.
The current administration’s use of Section 232 to impose trade-restrictive measures on imports of steel and aluminum has become the source of increasing domestic discontent among steel-using industries, farmers who are the target of retaliatory tariffs, and Members of Congress who are reconsidering having delegated powers over trade to the President. It has also put WTO dispute settlement to an unwelcome test.
When the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was first agreed by 23 original contracting parties in 1947, there were no guarantees that the rules would endure. Today, WTO membership stands at 164 countries — representing collectively, more than 98 percent of global trade. But for an institution to endure, it must remain relevant.
The meeting between President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping in Argentina in late November may prove to be a turning point for not only for the US-China relationship, but for global trade. Both leaders enter these discussions knowing the far more important question is whether there can be a sustainable co-existence between a Western market-driven economy with democratic ideals and a centrally-managed Chinese economy led by the Communist Party of China.
Trade wars, like real wars, are costly. But people are willing to sacrifice — at least up to a point — when they believe a cause is worth fighting for. Doing nothing in response to China’s policies would have cost nothing in the short run. But if the concerns raised by China’s policies are legitimate, doing nothing to fix them now will cost more to fix over time — if they remain fixable at all.
Made in China 2025 calls for achieving “self-sufficiency” through technology substitution while becoming a “manufacturing superpower” that dominates the global market in critical high-tech industries. That could be a problem for countries that rely on exporting high-tech products or the global supply chain for high-tech components.
The United States has a long history of advancing the rules-based order and, as a practical matter, has never lost a dispute arising from one of its many investment agreements. But investor-state dispute settlement procedures may not have a future.
Although the steel and aluminum tariffs are promoted by the Trump administration as a strategy to seek fairness for those industries, the tariffs will incite retaliation by trading partners, imposing significant costs on large numbers of U.S. producers and consumers who have nothing to do with these industries’ grievances.
With over 2,500 international investment agreements in force and only a total of 817 known investor-state dispute settlement arbitrations, it’s safe to say that the majority of these agreements have operated without a single dispute.