Foreign Policy Blogs

US and China: Environmentally-Friendly?

China's Three Gorges on the Yangtze River

With measured holiday celebrations by Americans this year, the US finds itself in a thick and thorny growing trade deficit with
China. Recent reports by the US Commerce Department that overall trade deficits have declined in the past two consecutive quarters may do little to assuage Congress members, who continue to push for punitive action against China for currency manipulation to leverage its trade surplus. To many, a more realistic metric of this damage is better understood when translated into an American loss of more than 1.9 million manufacturing jobs since 2000. An even bleaker truth is illustrated when comparing US-China exports to imports:

We export cotton, we import clothing. We export hides, we bring in shoes. We export scrap metal. We bring back machinery. We’re exporting waste paper, we bring back cardboard boxes with products inside them.  

In stark contrast, Europeans are busying themselves with preparations to contract with the PRC for nuclear reactors and Airbus passenger jets amounting to nearly $30 Billion USD.

The US and China engaged in the third session of the US-China Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) hosted in Beijing, to make progress on trade discrepancies hindering its relationship. Key issues of focus included food and product safety, energy and the environment, and transparency. Echoing US concerns during this session were the EU, Japan, and the WTO.

With its rising tally of unflattering trade practices ranging from unsafe toy production to negligence of intellectual property rights, China's impulse to shake its finger at protectionism to save face comes as no surprise. US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez called-out Chinese trade malpractices during USSED III as he beckoned, “I would have to assume that the brand ‘China’ is very important to the Chinese.”

Warning notes were sounded as Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi cautioned, “There have been some disharmonious notes in China-US relations this year. The inclination to politicise (trade) issues has increased. . . Trade restrictions, and protectionist measures, can only hurt both sides"

Optimists maintain that US-China trade relations will find common ground in opportunities to honor their commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy use for economic output. As Henry Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury projects, "The environment is an area that is “easier to cooperate on. It's something the Chinese have common ground with members of Congress on.”