When U.S. President Donald Trump took office in January, many people thought the harsh trade rhetoric emanating from the White House and his top advisers meant that a trade war with China might be imminent. It did not materialize. Six months on, however, the threat remains and if anything, is perhaps greater. It is of material consequence not just to China and the U.S, but also to the trade-dependent countries of Asia, the global trading system, and, ultimately, the integrity of the World Trade Organization. Why is this threat not disappearing?
Fears of a U.S.-China trade war receded earlier this year because Trump adopted a more flexible position on bilateral trade issues in return for help from Chinese President Xi Jinping to pressure North Korea to curb its ballistic missile and nuclear programs. Xi visited Trump in April at the president's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.