By Zhong Sheng

The American politicians “taught the world a lesson” by launching protectionism measures in the name of free trade. By unilaterally instigating trade frictions against so many countries, the Uncle Sam shut down the door of free trade with trade barriers.

A string of comics have been published by international media to unmask Washington’s self-deception and its failure to match deeds with words. What it did is a modern version of the fairy tale “Emperor’s new clothes”, in which the emperor and his courtiers pretend he is wearing clothes because they do not wish to appear foolish, but in the end they look more so.

Countries around the world have declared their solemn stand against the aggressive protectionism policies launched by the US, but some American politicians turned a deaf ear to those warnings.

The American politicians have, in a voluble way, made quite a lot slanders and empty talks. When the US unveiled a list of Chinese imports it wanted to impose additional tariffs, Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, said that the proposed tariffs may not actually take effect in the end.

“The actions could be a tactic to get China to negotiate on trade practices”, he said, adding that the US is ultimately a free trader.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro also advertised the US as a “free trader” when speaking at Hudson Institute, claiming that “for this administration, free trade means trade that is free, fair, reciprocal and balanced”.

During the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, the US side vowed that it “supports free trade, but it needs to be fair, and it needs to be reciprocal.”

When the US hit imported Chinese steel and aluminum products with hefty tariffs, it declared what it wanted is “free, fair and smart trade”, after which it even worked out a high-sounding slogan of “ zero tariffs, barriers and subsidies”.

What’s more ridiculous is that when the American politicians pledged to “continue to demand an economic relationship with China that is free, fair, and reciprocal, they slapped additional tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese imports.

German newspaper Handelsblatt commented Washington’s move to cover “America first” policy with “free trade” as a kind of “jargon of politics”.

A Chinese saying goes as “judge people by their deeds, not just by their words”. If the US really hopes to safeguard free trade, and build an open world economy, just as what China envisions to, it should work towards a solution with sincerity and concrete actions, instead of going back on its own words, in an illusion that the tariffs can translate its inordinate ambitions into realities.

If the US really upholds free trade and aspires a shared development with the rest of the world, it would not say no to inclusion of free trade and opposition of protectionism into the joint statement released by the G20 financial ministers and governors of central bank in their gathering in March 2017 in Germany.

If the US truly honors free trade and expects mutual benefits, it would neither reject EU’s offer to remove all tariffs on two-way trade of industrial goods, nor impose a 5 percent tax on all imports from Mexico starting June 10.

People around the world are clear-minded enough to judge what is fair trade, and what is bullying and deception. The so-called “free trade”, in the US side, is a unilateral game from which it can continue with the exploitation of multilateral trading system, defraud trust and seek its own interests.

By calling for a so-called “zero tariffs, barriers and subsidies”, Washington intends to worm its own way around the world. Its true ambition is to suppress other countries’ development backbones with its own advantageous industries after removing the protection of developing members from the World Trade Organization (WTO).

By howling the so-called “fair competition”, the US magnifies its own interests in an unprincipled way and in disregard of multilateral, inclusive and non-discriminatory guidelines advocated by the WTO.

In the eyes of Washington, an equality means US-benefited, otherwise, the order needs to be rebuilt.

“Any deal could not be ‘50-50’ between the two countries and had to be more in favor of the US because of past trade practices by China.” This blatant provocation from the US also uncovers its aggressive unilateralism and arrogance.

As international trade is preconditioned on and backed up by free and equal trade, the WTO has been taking free trade and opposition of protectionism as its core value and basic principles. This is the conclusion drawn up after rounds of hard negotiations and compromises.

As an important member of the WTO, the US played a key part in making multilateral trading rules, and has benefited a lot from the free trade. But the WTO rules is not Washington’s family rules, and it has neither the right nor the strength to overturn everything for sake of its self-interests.

No matter how hard the American politicians tried to uncover their true intention, their lies are not able to fool the whole world and confound free trade and protectionism moves. In this era of economic globalization, it is more important to enlarge the cake for common interests in a rule-based way, than to take truculent and unreasonable actions, bully others and follow an “America first” policy.

If moving ahead without any changes, the narrow-minded American politicians will drift the US off course, and in the end concentrate on trivial matters but neglect the important ones.

(Zhong Sheng is a pen name often used by People’s Daily to express its views on foreign policy)

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