Today’s escalation of US – China trade wars will harm workers globally

24 September 2018: Trade wars are intensifying today between the US and China in the lead up to early November mid-term Congressional elections. As the US tries to gain domestic political advantage, the latest round of retaliatory measures between the world’s largest economies will mean repercussions for workers around the world, who are already most disadvantaged by unfair trading systems.

As the world’s strongest economy, the US wants to further advantage its own corporations and pressure China into changing investment rules, advanced technology transfers and intellectual property rights, while hoping to gain electoral advantage though anti-Chinese rhetoric.

The most recent instalment on 18 September was escalation of tariffs on US$200 billion worth of imports (about half of total Chinese imports) to begin today, 24 September and increase again on 1 January 2019. China has announced tariffs on $US60b worth of US goods, also to start today. Trump says if this goes ahead he will increase tariffs on another $US267b worth of Chinese goods, bringing the total to $US517 billion in goods – or all Chinese goods sold in the US.

The result for Australia could be less demand for our exports, a weakening dollar and the possibility our markets will be flooded with displaced imports from the US and China, threatening local industry. This could in turn have repercussions for local jobs. Similar impacts will be felt in other countries, especially developing countries.

AFTINET says this system of “free” trade is broken. We need a radical shift in trade rules which currently profit industrialised countries and entrench inequality for the Global South. We need an open democratic trade system that includes all communities, based on human rights, labour rights, and environmental sustainability. Until we have fairer trade rules, ordinary workers will suffer the collateral damage of these power struggles.