Will there be a trade war with China?

No.  That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column.  Here is one bit:

Keep in mind that the U.S. is a relatively large buyer in many markets; in economic lingo, it has some monopsony power. So if it cuts back purchases of, say, Chinese toys, China cannot simply reroute those now-surplus toys and sell them to Canada or Indonesia at the same price. This gives the U.S. significant power in trade conflicts. And China cannot throw around its weight as a buyer in similar fashion because it does not import on the same scale.

The Chinese don’t have that many ready American targets for economic retaliation. Aircraft are one of the major U.S. exports to China, where market demand for domestic flights is rapidly growing. Beijing has a backlog of about 400 orders with the Boeing Co. It could try to switch some or all of those orders to Airbus SE, but that would mean delays. Airbus would also know it could increase its prices and the Chinese would have to pay. As a buyer, China doesn’t have as much leverage in this market as it might appear.

The U.S. has many more targets when it comes to restricting foreign investment, as there is plenty of Chinese capital that would love to flee. The Chinese government already limits the activities of the big technology companies and many other U.S. multinationals in China, so they don’t have as many extra sticks in this regard.

The reality is China has margins for responding to the U.S., but they are mostly not in the economic realm.

I thank Ray Lopez for a useful email conversation related to this column.


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