Strength in Numbers: USTR veteran Wendy Cutler on managing trade with China | Sinica Podcast | SupChina

Strength in Numbers: USTR veteran Wendy Cutler on managing trade with China

This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with Wendy Cutler, vice president at the Asia Society Policy Institute, about a new paper she has authored that calls for coordination between the U.S. and other countries in managing issues related to China trade. She makes the case for working through the WTO and other multilateral organizations, and explains why China is more apt to respond more positively to multilateral over bi- or unilateral approaches.

What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast:

4:08: American and Chinese economic advisers Robert Lighthizer and Liu He are said to be inching toward finalizing an agreement on bilateral trade in the early weeks of May. To begin, Wendy offers some insight into what developments could come: “I think we’re going to see a pretty robust agreement between the United States and China. It’ll have up to 150 pages of commitments, including market access commitments, purchasing commitments, structural reform commitments, as well as an enforcement mechanism to make sure China lives up to its obligations under the commitments.”

16:11: Wendy suggests that the building of new coalitions may be necessary, given the difficulty in gathering the 164 votes from each World Trade Organization member country needed for a formal agreement, and urges openness on collaboration on different issues with a wider range of partners. “What we’re advocating is that the United States doesn’t get fixated on working with the same countries on certain issues…  If the United States has concerns, chances are other countries have concerns, too. So reach out to other countries and see if, at a minimum, you can share information, and maybe, at a maximum, coordinate responses or even send joint representations to China on what needs to be changed. There’s a range of options.”

25:28: What of investment restrictions on Chinese companies in the United States? Wendy elaborates on her suggested strategy: “We suggest that the United States work and coordinate with other countries to see what they’re doing in this area. Because, for the United States, we don’t want to see a situation where we put so many restrictions on Chinese access to our market, and then China just turns elsewhere. Our measures are then less effective.”

29:41: Could this approach lead to a less antagonistic relationship with China, at least regarding trade? Wendy explains: “My hope is that with a U.S.-China trade agreement in the offing, I think, once again, we’re in the endgame and we’ll see a trade agreement soon. We’ll see, at least on the trade front, a reduction in tensions in this area and hopefully this reduction will maybe spread to other areas. I do think we’re in a new world now — that there’s going to be tensions between the United States and China in all of these areas — but I’m hopeful that through the close contacts our negotiators have forged as a result of the U.S.-China trade talks, that this could help deescalate a lot of tensions as they are emerging…”


Jeremy: A free bird identification app called Merlin Bird ID, produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Wendy: Finding a few songs to help the Chinese and U.S. negotiators to get through the highs and lows of international trade talks.

Kaiser: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou.

Kaiser Kuo

Kaiser Kuo is co-founder of the Sinica Podcast and editor-at-large of SupChina.