Miti establishes task force to monitor US-China trade conflict and protectionism

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KUALA LUMPUR (July 18): The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti) has established a task force to assess the developments of the US-China trade conflict and formulate strategies to mitigate the impact of trade protectionism.

The ministry said the task force will monitor and coordinate the feedback from various stakeholders against the backdrop of the escalating conflict.

"The task force will also act as a focal point for stakeholders to present their views, comments, and feedback.

"Companies operating in Malaysia are encouraged to reach out to this task force on any challenges they are facing due to the ongoing trade tension," Miti said in a statement.

The task force can be reached at [email protected].

Miti said countries should halt the spread of protectionism, and instead be actively engaged in finding amicable solutions and resolving trade issues through multilateral dialogue such as the World Trade Organisation.

"This is to ensure that trade policies can be effective in strengthening the multilateral trading system," it said.

Hence, said Miti, the Malaysian government will continue to work with all countries to ensure that protectionism is not the preferred path in any country's policy formulation.

"Malaysia will also highlight our concerns at the Asean and APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) fora," it said.

Miti said trade conflict is never a beneficial move for any country simply because trade restrictions and retaliatory measures would hurt everyone, especially small countries.

The ministry noted the conflict has not only affected the US and China but also sparked retaliatory measures by many other aggrieved countries.

The measures include safeguard investigations launched by the European Union (EU) in March 2018 on 23 iron and steel products and followed by Turkey against numerous iron and steel products in May 2018.

Meanwhile, it said Canada is also considering both quotas and tariffs to stop a spike in imports of foreign steel being diverted from the US.

"Looking at this upsetting trend, a vicious protectionist cycle will ensue and pose a threat to world trade," Miti said. "It is a real concern that in recent months, we have seen the spectre of protectionism on the rise."

Miti said the protectionist measures started when the US initiated investigations in 2017 under the auspices of its Trade Act of 1974 and Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

The US-China trade conflict began on Jan 22, when Washington imposed the global safeguard measures on solar panels and washing machines.

Tensions further escalated when the US invoked Section 232 of its Trade Expansion Act of 1962 and imposed additional tariffs against aluminium and steel imports on national security grounds.

These actions resulted in numerous announcements and actions by China in retaliating against the measures taken by the US.