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On June 26, 2018, the Hinrich Foundation hosted a plenary panel on US-China trade tensions at the East-West Center’s (EWC) International Media Conference in Singapore. The panel – titled “Pulling back from the bring: Can a US-China trade war be averted?”— was attended by hundreds of international media professionals.

The panel featured analysis from the following trade experts:

  • Steven Okun, Senior Advisor, McLarty Associates
  • Xiaoming Pan, PhD, Research Fellow, Center for Asia-Pacific Studies, Institute for World Economy Studies at Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS)
  • Eduardo Pedrosa, Secretary General and coordinator of PECC’s report on the State of the Region, Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC)
  • Moderator: Stephen Olson, Research Fellow, Hinrich Foundation

Stephen Olson of the Hinrich Foundation kicked off the panel discussion by providing necessary context for understanding today’s complex trade landscape. Olson explained how the US-China trade dispute is not just about trade deficits and tariffs, but about two fundamentally different economic systems. The root of the problem is that the existing trade system is entirely unequipped to deal with China’s state-directed capitalist model, Olson said. He also said it was clear that these two systems were there to stay and that a new framework is needed that will allow them to coexist.

The panelists then offered their analysis of the trade tensions based on their unique perspectives. Steven Okun of McLarty Associates said the US had missed out on a big opportunity by withdrawing from the TransPacific Partnership (TPP). As the US becomes less engaged in global trade, it will find itself increasingly on the sidelines moving forward while important new trade rules are being written, he added. Xiaoming Pan of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies provided a Chinese perspective on the issues at hand. She stressed that the US and China need each other as trading partners and that the trade relationship should be a win-win situation, not a zero-sum game. Finally, Eduardo Pedroza of PECC provided a regional perspective of what impact the US-China trade spat will have on the Asia as a whole. He talked about the importance of understanding the structural causes for the US trade deficit and emphasized the need for clear and predictable trade rules.

The panel was followed with a question and answer session with the audience. The panel discussion was later featured in an article by The Straits Times and Stephen Olson was interviewed on the key themes from the panel discussion on CNBC

Video source: Pulling Back From the Brink: Can a US-China Trade War Be Averted? from East-West Center on Vimeo.

About the author – Lauren Kyger

Lauren Kyger is a Research Associate with the Hinrich Foundation where she focuses on international trade research. She is a Hinrich Foundation Global Trade Leader Scholar alumna, earning her Master’s degree in Global Business Journalism from Tsinghua University in Beijing. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.