A Chinese expert on Wednesday warned that the US might inflict harm on its own economy by ignoring rules under the WTO and dismissed tough talk on China, saying that it shouldn't be taken "too seriously."
His warning came in response to comments by the nominee for US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, during a Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday when he was asked about trade policy toward China.
"I believe [President Donald Trump] is going to change the paradigm on China and, if you look at our problems, China is right up there," he told the senators at the hearing.
However, Lighthizer's comments at the hearing in Congress, where nationalist views and tough stances on China are popular and will help him win confirmation, shouldn't be taken "too seriously," according to Mei Xinyu, an associate research fellow at the Ministry of Commerce.
When it came to China's overcapacity of steel, aluminum and other products that are exported to the US, Lighthizer said, "I don't believe that the WTO was set up to deal effectively with a country like China and their industrial policy."
The Trump administration has signaled in its official trade policy that it will dust off rarely used US trade law to punish trading partners, even at the risk of running afoul of the WTO, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.
"A lot of things said at these hearings won't necessarily happen … we have seen that in many cases such as the hearing of [Secretary of State Rex Tillerson]," Mei told the Global Times on Wednesday.
Lighthizer also mentioned the idea of creating new tools outside the WTO to deal with China, but he did not offer specifics.
That is in line with the trade policies proposed by the Trump administration. A trade policy agenda sent to the Congress on March 1 by the White House suggested that the US would ignore certain WTO decisions and enforce domestic trade-related laws, including some provisions that allow the US to take relief measures against foreign goods.
Though the US always places its national laws above international ones, the WTO rules "do have teeth" and the US needs to follow these rules, Mei added, noting the WTO also protects the interests of the US, which has filed numerous cases at the WTO against imports and won about half of them.
"So, if the US decides to ignore the WTO, it will hurt its economy as well," he said.