Africa can work Global Trade Wars to its advantage by asserting independence and better negotiating the value of its resources
Global Trade wars are roiling economies and international relationships in 2018 like never before. by A south African Insider
In the long term, African nations can come out ahead if they prioritise inter-African trade and carefully select foreign trade partners. African nations with important commodities to sell, from Mozambique’s natural gas and Nigeria’s oil to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s minerals and South Africa’s abalone shellfish, have never been in a better position to play one foreign trade partner off another. This is particularly true when it comes to realigning East versus West relations based on trade issues.
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Global Trade wars seek to undercut African economic advancement
However, there is a more sinister aspect to the current global trade wars, which were launched by the United States under the Trump administration with a round of tariffs aimed at adversaries such as China, as well as allies like Canada. While it is true that China has a lopsided balance of trade with the US, the American economy had been thriving under the former system.
US companies depend on Chinese-made components, and American consumers enjoy low-cost Chinese products. In light of the latest US tariffs imposed on Chinese goods, valued at US$ 200 billion, economists wondered why the heavy-handed approach of ever-increasing tariffs was necessary while negotiations may possibly be carried out to address the balance of trade issues.
The reason is not good economics but US politics. Anti-foreign sentiments have been stirred up by the US President, who uses foreign trade as a sub-theme. There is also an overtly aggressive element to this: Washington imposing its economic might because it can. In other words, bullying.
To China, there is another sinister motive involved, and this one impacts all US trade partners, including Africa. Beijing believes that the US is using trade war in a way very much like real war, to attack a foreign rival and undercut its economy. China feels the US wishes to reverse China’s impressive economic gains, lessening its competitiveness as a global trade partner, and undercutting its rise as an economic powerhouse.
This concern might also be held by African countries. With the US economy booming, there is no need to strong-arm impoverished African countries on trade issues, making demands, setting ultimatums and imposing sanctions instead of talking things through. However, Mr Trump is not a statesman but a businessman, who sees business as a zero-sum game in which other countries gain only at the US’ expense.
Consequently, he is baffled by the need for the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) because it allows qualifying African countries tax-free and quota-free access to the American market. Meanwhile, US products are still taxed when imported into Africa. Mr Trump finds this ‘unfair’, fundamentally misunderstanding the goal of AGOA. This trade initiative is intended to give African economies a boost so that they will become robust and eventually become better customers for US goods, while also becoming more stable and secure through their stronger economies. AGOA provides trade giveaways for the US’ long-term benefit.
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