Trade wars ‘harm the initiator’: China just fired a warning shot at the US over Trump’s tariffs

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi. GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images
  • China’s foreign minister Wang Yi said on Thursday that history shows trade wars harm the initiator as well as the target.
  • Speaking at China’s annual legislative meeting, Wang said that if a trade war were to happen, Beijing would have a “justified and necessary response.”
  • Trump announced steel and aluminium tariffs last week and, amid bipartisan criticism in the US, he insisted that “trade wars are good.”
  • But only 1.1% of China’s steel exports end up in the US, so the tariffs are unlikely to have the effect Trump might desire.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi just took a shot at US President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminium, warning that trade wars “harm the initiator.”

Speaking at China’s annual legislative meeting, the National People’s Congress, Wang spoke at length on Thursday about the need, and desire, for cooperation between the US and China.

But, in the last of a three-part response to a question on Trump’s belief that China’s state economic model undermines international competition, Wang did not hold back.

“As for our trade frictions, history teaches that trade war is never the right solution. In a globalized world it is particularly unhelpful as it will harm the initiator as well as the target country,” he said.

He added: “In the event of a trade war, China will make a justified and necessary response.”

Wang went on to say that, “as the world’s largest economies, China’s and America’s interests are deeply entwined” and that, if there is competition between the countries it must be “healthy and positive.”

“China and America do not have to be rivals,” Wang said.

US President Donald Trump in the White House after meeting with steel industry representatives last week. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Wang was responding to Trump’s announcement of steep tariffs on steel and aluminium that has sparked fears of a trade war. While it was thought that the tariffs were targeted at Beijing, it may only have a limited effect because China exports just 1.1% of its steel to the US.

But global leaders became particularly concerned when, last week, Trump announced that “trade wars are good.”

In response, China is already looking into restrictions on US exports.

“China’s development and revitalization is unstoppable, this is the consensus of the international community,” Wang said on Thursday.