台灣時間23日，美國總統川普祭出「301調查」大刀揮向中國，對規模600億美元的中國進口產品課徵報復性高關稅及投資限制，而中國也立即回應反制， 針對128 項美國進口產品加徵關稅。
台灣對中國大陸的出口，大多屬在中國大陸加工後，再出口至美國等工業國家的中間材，以2017 年來看，其中對中國大陸與香港出口比重占41%，總金額高達 1,302 億美元，對該市場依存性高，其中又以電子消費、紡織、機械加工及電子零組件產業在陸加工占比較高，所受影響程度較大。若美中貿易關係緊張，致中國大陸出口受挫，則台灣對中國大陸出口亦將深受影響，間接衝擊台灣經濟。
In the latest step in Trump’s professed aim of initiating a trade war, on the 23rd of this month, Taiwan time, the US released its findings and suggestions for import duties to be levied against an array of Chinese products under section 301 of the US trade code.
Reasons for the Initiation of a Trade War
Trump has stated that post China’s 2001 accession to WTO, that China has reaped large benefits, but the the Chinese economy has essentially undergone no internal marketization reforms since that date. On the contrary, this era has instead seen the erection of a new set of trade barriers, for instance, Chinese restrictions on American companies entering the Chinese market. Unless there are reforms made on the rules surrounding the exchange of technology, including strengthening of patent, contract, and intellectual property rules, as well as an easing of restrictions regarding the introduction of foreign companies into the Chinese market, the US will consider China in contravention of WTO rules, and no longer tolerate what they see as uneven trade barriers instead of reciprocal opening.
China is the largest source of America’s trade deficit. The trade deficit between the two countries began in 1985 with 600 million USD, and has continually increased since then. In 2017, the deficit between the US and China stood at 38 billion USD.
China’s Foreign Exchange Surpluses Stem from their Trade Imbalance
Historically, The United States has enjoyed many years of pressure-free government deficits. Decades of deficit spending have gone towards the provision of government services, entitlement programs, and military spending. In the past, the Chinese government has used excess foreign capital from their trade surplus to purchase US treasury bonds, essentially funding US deficit spending while preventing the US treasury from needing to issue interest rate increases. China has become one of the largest purchasers of US government bond debt. Stable and liquid, US treasury bonds make up the largest portion of China’s foreign exchange holdings. This is the precise reason why the US has allowed the maintenance of this trade imbalance for so long.
Taiwanese Trade Will Suffer in a Trade War
In the event of a full-on Sino-US trade war, Taiwan will be one of the largest victims. Typical three way trade follows the pattern of Taiwan providing IP and order processing, China producing the goods and shipping, and the US consuming the final product. This model can be simplified as a kind of triangle of production and consumption.
A large portion of Taiwanese goods and production orders have value-added along the production process in China, before being delivered to their destination countries. As a proportion of Taiwanese trade, in 2017, China and Hong Kong represented 41% of all exports, accounting for 130 billion US dollars of trade. The markets are startlingly interdependent, and include sectors such as electronics assembly and semiconductors, textiles, machining and electronic components. These sectors are all extremely dependent on China, with a very large proportion of their final value added in the products’ China-based processing. This level of interdependence means that Taiwan’s trade and manufacturing is also highly vulnerable to shocks, and a trade war could be catastrophic to Taiwan’s economy.
Trump has at this point has opened an investigation into Chinese violation of Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. If, in the future, the US in unable to mitigate or accept these natural trade imbalances, the steps taken will inevitably be more drastic. If tariffs are introduced onto imports, then capital costs will increase for consumers and consequently, trade will decrease. If China doesn’t give way, it remains to be seen how other countries will respond, but it is absolutely certain that in the event of a trade war, there will be no winners.
Staff writer: Chen
English and Translation: Ari B