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U.S.-China trade war appears to be imminent

Posted January. 15, 2018 08:15,   

Updated January. 15, 2018 08:30


Taobao, the marketplace of China’s biggest e-commerce Alibaba, has yet again made the U.S. government’s annual list of the world’s most notorious markets. While the United States and China continue to wrangle over trade, some watchers say that last year’s record-high trade surplus of China with the United States may soon trigger a trade war between the two superpowers.

Last year, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) put Taobao on its blacklist for the second year in a row over suspected counterfeits on the shopping platform in violation of intellectual property (IP) rights, BBC China reported Sunday. The USTR placed 25 online markets and 18 physical markets on its list of notorious markets for sales of pirated and counterfeit goods that infringe on IP rights and cause severe damage to U.S. workers. Taobao and another eight Chinese online and offline markets were included in the list, taking up 20 percent share.

Alibaba did not hesitate to defend itself, saying that it has become “a scapegoat for the USTR to win points in a highly-politicized environment” and that the USTR’s action is “not about intellectual property protection, but just another instrument to achieve the U.S. government’s geopolitical objectives.”

Early this month, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) rejected the plan of Ant Financial, online payment services provider and affiliate of Alibaba, to acquire the U.S.-based money transfer company MoneyGram, feeding speculation that Washington is about to start a trade war with Beijing by reining in its representative conglomerate Alibaba.

Experts say that U.S. measures to raise tariffs on products made in China and import restrictions are likely to be met with China’s countermeasures in the same manner. Some U.S. pundits are voicing concern that in response, China may tighten regulations on key U.S. exported goods such as Boeing’s airplanes, automobiles, integrated circuits, soybeans as well as Hollywood films.

Wan-Jun Yun zeitung@donga.com