President of the US-China Business Council weighs in on trade tensions

World Today

American companies operating in China are weighing in on the trade war. Craig Allen is the new president of the US-China Business Council. He took over just as the trade war was heating up. Here’s more of his exclusive interview with CGTN America’s Jessica Stone.

Craig Allen became president of the U.S.-China Business Council in July—a month before Donald Trump imposed a second round of tariffs on Chinese goods. The conflict would only get worse.

“This is different than anything I have experienced in the past, Allen said.  “We have a level of tension that is quite unprecedented.”

Allen spent 40 years of his life working on the U.S.-China relationship.  Twelve of those years were spent living and working in China.

In the three months since taking the helm, Allen has met with Chinese government finance officials, Chinese regulators, and hosted State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi—all on behalf of some 200 U.S. companies doing business in China.

The US-China Business Council has been a bridge to China for American companies since the 1970’s.

Now, the council is focused on helping those companies manage the fallout from a dispute that has escalated into a full-blown trade war. Allen says China and the U.S. have real trade problems, but tariffs are only part of the solution.

“You believe that the tariffs have gotten the attention of Beijing?” asked Stone.

“That’s like a good medicine. A good medicine will help to catalyze an immune response that will lead to a real cure for a real problem. But I think that the overuse of medicine can also be a dangerous thing.  And, so I would have to be forthright and say that an overuse of tariffs might not solve the problem, but might make it worse,” said Craig Allen.

 “Are we there?” asked Stone.

“I don’t know,”  Allen replied.

In recent weeks, Allen has raised alarms about using tariffs to coerce change in trade policies. He hopes the U.S. and China will find a way to get off this path at the G20 summit in November.

“What’s going on behind the scenes to give consumers and businesses any confidence that these two economies can work this out?” Stone asked.

“The two presidents will meet or at least they’ll be in the same room in Buenos Aires, Argentina and November 30th to December 1st, and it is our hope that the trade negotiators on both sides will be able to roll up their sleeves, get together and work out some of the very legitimate issues raised by the administration on the WTO compliance and IPR and forced tech transfer that we’ve discussed and others,” replied Allen.  “So that the two leaders are able to reach a form of ceasefire, truce, and put forward a plan for negotiations with a time certain in the near future.” 

“Do you think the U.S. has given the Chinese a way to say ‘yes’ to something?” queried Stone.

“I do think there’s a way out, a way to say ‘yes.’ First, because the two economies are intertwined. There’s an enormous amount of trade going back and forth,” Allen explained.  “The prospect of 100 percent tariffs on a bilateral basis is a very negative prospect. Where do you go? How do you get out of that? We have a potential exit ramp on November 30 in Buenos Aires.”

“The issues that the Trump administration issues are legit, longstanding, important. And, we want to reach resolution asap—where companies can evaluate their investments, their supply chains in an economic manner,” Allen continued.  “What we don’t want to move towards is a state-managed trade.”