Uganda shows the futility of Trump’s trade war tactics

Foreign Affairs

Trump's deal with China won't mean fewer trade tensions. If anything, once China starts buying more from the U.S., it will be forced to buy less, relatively, from other countries. The leaders of other countries are starting to notice, and worry — like the president of the Central East African nation of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni.

uganda

Photo credit: SupChina illustration by Derek Zheng

According to a source in the South China Morning Post, “Washington has sent an invitation and Beijing has accepted it,” and China’s chief trade negotiator, Liú Hè 刘鹤, will travel to the U.S. to sign a deal with President Trump on Saturday.

This deal will not “end” the trade war. Even if it is signed, it is expected to reduce Trump’s tariffs by less than 2 percent, and as best as we can tell, the most tangible benefit for the U.S. will be agricultural purchases by China.

That doesn’t mean fewer trade tensions. If anything, once China starts buying more from the U.S., it will be forced to buy less, relatively, from other countries. Other countries are starting to notice, and worry.

The president of the Central East African nation of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, had this to say earlier this month:

Africa’s 54 countries have come together through market integration in blocs such as Comesa [Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa] that are not sustainable. The surplus of production needs another intercontinental market and an external market like China to come in.

Analysts say that the Chinese market can only absorb so much — and the SCMP reports that a “giant increase in China’s imports from the U.S. would come at the expense of other trading partners, which are concerned at the prospect of the phase one trade deal.”