Last week China accused Barack Obama of "rampant protectionism" after the American President imposed a new duty of 35% on Chinese tyre imports. US labour unions - a key part of the Democratic Party's coalition - had sought the tariffs.
Writing for The Financial Times, Charles Freeman accuses the Obama administration of "calculated cynicism" in its new protectionist attitude toward China:
"The levying of new tariffs on imports of Chinese tyres is not particularly heartening. To be sure, China is no angel in international trade matters. As everywhere, China’s domestic politics complicate Beijing’s economic policies and bedevil efforts of international negotiators to ensure a level playing field in cross-border trade. But this particular White House decision, taken through a process that is widely despised in China as uniquely discriminatory against that country, is no mere slap on the wrist for run-of-the-mill Chinese perfidies. This decision provides fodder for nationalist interests in China that will not just push for tit-for-tat retaliation against US economic interests, but play into a broader trend within China to roll back market-opening reforms. That could result in a back-and-forth battle of retaliatory trade measures which, given the importance of US-China trade relations to global commerce, will provide cheer to only the most parochial of interests worldwide."