Trade relations between the USA and China have deteriorated recently. There are two key issues: the exchange rate and trade protectionism.
The Chinese currency, the yuan or renmimbi, since 2005 has been officially pegged to a trade-weighted basket of other currencies. In recent months, however, as the dollar has fallen relative to other major currencies, so too has the yuan. It seems as if the peg is with the dollar, not with the basket. From March to December 2009, the exchange rate index of the dollar depreciated by 16 per cent. Yet the exchange rate between the yuan and the dollar hardly changed. In other words, the yuan depreciated along with the dollar against other world currencies, such as the euro, the pound and the yen. The trade advantage that this was giving to the USA with other countries did not apply to China.
Complaints continued that cheap Chinese goods were flooding into the USA, threatening US jobs and undermining US recovery. The Chinese currency was argued to be undervalued relative to its purchasing-power-parity rate. For example, the July 2009 Big Mac index showed the yuan undervalued by 49% against the dollar (see Economics 7e, Box 25.4 for a discussion of the Big Mac index).
The USA, and other countries too, have been putting diplomatic pressure on the Chinese to revalue the yuan and to remove subsidies on their exports. At the same time various protectionist moves have been taken. For example, on December 31 2009 the US International Trade Commission voted to impose tariffs on the $2.8 billion worth of steel-pipe imports from China. The tariffs would be between 10.4% and 15.8%.
The following articles look at these trade and exchange rate issues. Are we heading for a deepening trade war between the USA and China?
Currency contortions The Economist (17/12/09)
Beijing dismisses currency pressure Financial Times, Geoff Dyer (28/12/09)
China aims for 10pc growth and won’t appreciate yuan The Australian (29/12/09)
Wen stands firm on yuan China Daily (28/12/09)
China’s premier says banks should curb lending BusinessWeek, Joe McDonald (27/12/09)
China insists will reform yuan at its own pace Forexyard, Aileen Wang and Simon Rabinovitch (31/12/09)
US slaps new duties on Chinese steel Financial Times, Alan Rappeport (30/12/09)
Chinese Steel Pipes Face Heavy U.S. Duties BusinessWeek, Daniel Whitten (31/12/09)
The US-China Trade War Is Here The Business Insider, Vincent Fernando (10/12/09)
Year dominated by weak dollar Financial Times, Anjli Raval (2/1/10)
- Explain what is meant by the ‘purchasing-power-parity (ppp) exchange rate’.
- Why is the yuan (or ‘renmimbi’) undervalued in ppp terms?
- What are the the implications of an undervalued currency for that country’s current and financial account of the balance of payments?
- What would be the implications of a revaluation of the yuan for (a) China and (b) China’s trading partners?
- Discuss Premier Wen Jiabao’s statement, “The basic stability of the renminbi is conducive to international society”.
- What forms of protectionism have been used by (a) China and (b) China’s trading partners? Who gains and who loses from such protectionism?
Back in 1993, the EU imposed tariffs on bananas imported from countries which were not former colonies of EU countries. These former colonies are in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (the ACP countries). This meant that the main countries bearing the tariffs were banana producing countries in Central and South America.
“In 1996, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, together with the US, formally complained to the World Trade Organization (WTO) about the tariffs. Since then the WTO has repeatedly ruled that the EU tariffs are unfair, but little has changed thanks to continued discussions and arguments between the major players.”
Over the years the disputes between the EU and the APC countries on one side and the Latin American countries and the USA on the other have become known as the ‘banana wars’ (see Web cases 24.5 and 24.6 in Economics 7e MyEconLab). The WTO has ruled against the EU on several occasions, but to little effect as appeals have been lodged and talks have continued. At last, however, agreement has been reached – and without the WTO. This should see EU tariffs on Latin American bananas cut from 176 euros per tonne now to 114 euros per tonne over a seven-year period.
So are the banana wars over? Will EU consumers gain? And what will be the effect on Latin American and ACP banana producers? The following articles examine these questions.
Ending the longest trade dispute in history: EU initials deal on bananas with Latin American countries EU Press Release (15/12/09)
The EU-Latin America Bananas Agreement – Questions and Answers EU Press Release (15/12/09)
Lamy hails accord ending long running banana dispute WTO Press Release (15/12/09)
EU ends ‘banana wars’ with Latin America EU Observer (15/12/09)
Bananas dispute at the World Trade Organisation Reuters Factbox (15/12/09)
Banana prices to fall after longest trade dispute in EU history settled Telegraph (16/12/09)
End of banana wars brings hope for Doha Financial Times, Joshua Chaffin (16/12/09)
EU cuts import tariffs in a bid to end ‘banana wars’ (video) BBC News (16/12/09)
EU cuts import tariffs in a bid to end ‘banana wars’ BBC News (15/12/09)
Banana wars: the fruits of world trade BBC News, Nigel Cassidy (15/12/09)
EU, Latin America Proclaim End to “Banana War” Latin American Herald Tribune, Marta Hurtado (15/12/09)
Settlement should help Chiquita Business Courier of Cincinnati, Dan Monk (15/12/09)
Banana deal offers hope for global trade talks Sydney Morning Herald, Alexandra Troubnikoff (16/12/09)
Pact Ends Long Trade Fight Over Bananas New York Times, Stephen Castle (15/12/09)
Banana deal offers hope for global trade talks Sydney Morning Herald, Stephen Castle (15/12/09)
EU banana dispute ends in favor of Latin American exporters Deutsche Welle (15/12/09)
- Who has gained and who has lost from the tariffs imposed on non-ACP producers over the past 16 years?
- How might the agreement over bananas impact on the stalled Doha round talks?
- What is likely to happen to banana prices in the EU over the coming months? Use a diagram to illustrate your answer.
- Are the banana wars likely to be over now?
Large areas of land in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe are lying uncultivated due to export barriers and tariffs. Given the recent rapid rise in food prices, this fallow land (estimated to be around 23 million hectares) could help to reduce upward pressure on food prices.
Bread basket that is left to grow weeds Times Online (12/3/08)
||Identify three different forms of protectionism.
||Explain why the land identified in the article has remained uncultivated.
||Discuss the arguments for and against these countries reducing tariffs on food.