Views: 48726|Replies: 10

Could a US recession end the trade war? [Copy link] 中文

Rank: 8Rank: 8

Post time 2019-8-31 10:51:41 |Display all floors
Editor's note: Shang-Jin Wei is the former Chief Economist of the Asian Development Bank, professor of Finance and Economics at Columbia University and a visiting professor at the Australian National University. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

The recent inversion of the yield curve in the United States – with the interest rate on ten-year U.S. government bonds currently lower than that on short-term bonds – has raised fears of a possible U.S. recession later this year or in 2020.

Yet, paradoxically, a downturn in America could help to improve bilateral economic relations with China and cool the two countries’ escalating trade dispute.

Recent history offers grounds for such predictions. True, by reducing import demand, U.S. recessions normally have a negative impact on economies with a high trade-to-GDP ratio, including China. However, in recent downturns, the U.S. also has been more willing than normal to cooperate with China in order to try to spur recovery.

During the last major U.S. recession in 2008-10, for example, China appeared to be the only major economy able and willing to boost global demand. Partly as a result of this, Sino-American ties improved, and the U.S. even advocated giving China a greater voice in international bodies such as the International Monetary Fund and the G20.

Similarly, U.S.-China relations were at a low ebb in mid-2001, following a mid-air collision of a U.S. reconnaissance plane and a Chinese fighter jet over the South China Sea, which resulted in the death of the Chinese pilot and the capture of the American crew. But after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks suddenly darkened the U.S. economic outlook, U.S.-China economic ties improved.

Unlike its predecessors, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration may not have international cooperation in its DNA.

But, tellingly, Trump initiated the current tariff war when the U.S. economy was somewhat overheated, partly as a result of the aggressive tax cut that he pushed through Congress in late 2017. Frictions with America’s trading partners, which many economists believe are damaging both the U.S. and the global economy, may in fact be helping to cool down the U.S. economy.

But Trump’s stance on China may soften, should a recession materialize.

Two factors could derail this possibility.

First, China may be unable or unwilling to provide economic stimulus. The Chinese government’s debt-to-GDP ratio is higher today than it was a decade ago, when the authorities rolled out an aggressive stimulus package to offset weakening export demand in the wake of the global financial crisis. That fact would seem to limit the government’s capacity to pursue an expansionary fiscal policy in the event of a U.S. recession.

Even so, China’s debt-to-GDP ratio is still much lower than that of most other large economies, giving the government some room for additional fiscal stimulus in an economic emergency. Moreover, although the People’s Bank of China is more cautious about injecting liquidity at will, the relatively high reserve ratio the PBOC imposes on commercial banks suggests that it would have significant firepower should the need arise.

Use magic tools Report

Rank: 8Rank: 8

Post time 2019-8-31 10:52:19 |Display all floors
The second risk factor is the 2017 U.S. corporate tax cut, which enlarges America’s trade deficit with China, further damaging bilateral relations.

America’s overall trade deficit reflects a shortage of U.S. national savings relative to investment. By causing U.S. government debt to increase by an additional 1-2 trillion U.S. dollars over the next decade, the 2017 tax cut will make the government’s savings rate substantially more negative.

Because it is unlikely to be offset by a decrease in national investment or a large enough increase in private-sector savings, the tax cut has contributed to a higher U.S. trade deficit. The overall deficit this year is projected to be larger than in 2017 or 2018, and this trend is set to continue.

This strongly suggests that the U.S. trade deficit with China will increase. With U.S. politicians and much of the media evidently failing to recognize the connection between Trump’s tax cut and the growing U.S. trade deficit, they will most probably think the Chinese are doing something pernicious.

For this reason, I have long argued that the U.S. tax cut is a significant structural impediment to reducing America’s trade deficit with China (and with many other trading partners), and therefore a likely source of tension over the next few years.

Nonetheless, the U.S. trade deficit (as a share of GDP) typically decreases as the American economy weakens, because import demand tends to fall as well. A U.S. recession may, therefore, somewhat moderate the negative impact of the Trump tax cut on the trade deficit.

More important, the Chinese government has itself cut taxes aggressively since the end of 2018, reducing value-added tax (from 17 percent to 16 percent and then to 13 percent), lowering the corporate income-tax rate, and decreasing the social-security contribution rate for employers.

Because these recent tax cuts are unlikely to be offset by lower investment or a sufficiently large increase in private savings, China’s national savings rate will most probably decrease.

As a result, the country’s overall trade surplus – which reflects its excess of savings over investment – probably will be far smaller in 2020, and may even slide into deficit in one or two quarters. Although China will almost certainly still run a bilateral trade surplus with America next year because of the effect of the U.S. tax cut, the imbalance will be much smaller than otherwise would have been the case.

While a U.S. recession would be bad news for the global economy in terms of a direct demand channel, it could help to normalize the troubled relations between America and China. If the world’s two largest economies get along better, businesses and investors everywhere will breathe a sigh of relief. This may turn out to be a silver lining in the next U.S. recession.

Use magic tools Report

Post time 2019-8-31 11:51:00 |Display all floors
Reminder: Author is prohibited or removed, and content is automatically blocked

Use magic tools Report

Rank: 8Rank: 8

Post time 2019-8-31 12:27:09 |Display all floors
Could a US recession end the trade war?

It could, provide D Trump is thrown out 2020!  The irrational, pompous, economics-ignorant POTUS will never want to lose face cooperating with China!  We need a more sane, rational President at the helm!

Use magic tools Report

Rank: 8Rank: 8

Post time 2019-8-31 21:39:19 |Display all floors

Perhaps, the appropriate title is has US learnt its lesson inflicted by its president Trump, for he is the sole one who implements his words into policies that harmed US more than any ohter nation.

US President Trump prides himself as the only person in US history that would be second to its founder!

Indeed! Trump is the US man with great honor that only he cannot deny!

Use magic tools Report

Rank: 6Rank: 6

Post time 2019-9-1 05:47:29 |Display all floors

Use magic tools Report

Rank: 6Rank: 6

Post time 2019-9-1 05:49:14 |Display all floors

Use magic tools Report

You can't reply post until you log in Log in | register

Contact us:Tel: (86)010-84883548, Email:
Blog announcement:| We reserve the right, and you authorize us, to use content, including words, photos and videos, which you provide to our blog
platform, for non-profit purposes on China Daily media, comprising newspaper, website, iPad and other social media accounts.