US-China trade debate troubling: RBA head


SYDNEY–Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) governor Glenn Stevens has urged a more multilateral approach to the United States-China trade dispute, warning bilateralism can hurt smaller countries. As China’s economy has boomed, tensions have arisen with the U.S. over the value of the Chinese currency and the flood of Chinese goods into America, sparking a heated trade dispute. But China has also become the major trading partner of countries like Australia, Japan, South Korea and others in Asia, and Stevens said the issues need to be tackled in a broader international context. “It does not help, in my judgment, that so much of the discussion takes place through a bilateral prism — particularly the U.S.-China current account prism,” he said in speech delivered overnight Wednesday in New York. “This bilateral focus can be quite troubling, and not only because it risks oversimplifying problems and therefore lessening the likelihood of solutions. “It can be troubling for a host of small countries, which worry about the potential for more widespread effects of solutions that may be attempted. “This is why it is so important that the problems be considered, and resolved, in a multilateral setting.” Stevens, speaking to the American Australian Association, said forums like the G-20 were important in providing a table around which these discussions should take place. “Australia — a small but outward-looking country with very substantial ties to both the United States and Asia — has more than a passing interest in the progress of this very difficult, but very important, discussion,” he said. The central bank governor also focused on the rise of Asia in the past 20 years, with the region growing from around a quarter of the global economy in 1990 to more than a third in 2010, largely due to the rise of China. He said it was not just the center of gravity of economic activity that was moving to Asia — the weight of financial assets was also shifting. “The rise of China, and, very likely, India, is a transformative event for the global economy,” he said. “Unless something pretty major goes wrong, we are likely to see much more of this trend for quite a long time yet.” Based on the Chinese government seeking annual economic growth of seven percent, China’s weight in the global economy would surpass the euro area in five years, and approach the U.S. within a decade, Stevens added. “By any reckoning, the emergence of China is a huge historical event. And then there is India,” he said. “So the world of production and consumption is changing.”