“I think we are in for a prolonged period of continuing escalating tensions,” said Deborah Elms, the executive director at the Asian Trade Centre, which is based in Singapore.
One problem is that “both sides think they have the upper hand in this debate,” Elms said.
She said the situation is likely to worsen in the months ahead through the U.S. midterm elections.
“I think we don’t have enough pain in the system yet for either side to say, ‘Okay, I declare that we’ve got to have a different approach right now.’ That’s the challenge,” said Elms.
Market watchers are now keeping their eyes on another round of U.S. tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods expected later this year.
As has been noted by analysts, China does not import enough U.S. goods to be able to match Washington’s potential tariffs on a dollar-for-dollar basis. So, should the U.S. keep increasing the amount of goods on which it imposes duties, “something has to give,” Elms said.
If “they can’t continue to match the U.S., they’ll have to do something else — it’ll be on services, it’ll be on retaliation against U.S. companies in China, it will be some other mechanism and they’ll have to wait and see what that will be, but it will be something,” she said.
U.S. companies operating in China will have to be prepared for “a lot more scrutiny,” she added.
Some have suggested the Chinese currency could become a non-tariff weapon in the trade war. But, last Friday, the People’s Bank of China appeared to dash that speculation when it announced a change to its yuan policy that looked to keep the currency steady.