Wang Yuanfeng: This trend in Europe and the United States runs counter to international cooperation

Recently, American media said that Europe and the United States have reached an intention to impose tariffs on China’s steel and aluminum exports to Europe and the United States in the name of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and overcapacity. Although it will take some time for an agreement to be reached, this practice has not only been opposed by the Chinese government, but also criticized by international public opinion. Obviously, this is of no benefit to the “climate change” that Europe and the United States talk about.
The imposition of additional tariffs on imported steel and aluminum is not a new move of the United States Government. During the Trump administration, the United States, in the name of endangering national security, once took this measure against steel and aluminum exported to the United States by the European Union. After being strongly opposed by the EU, in 2021, the Biden government negotiated with the EU to adopt the so-called tariff quota system (TRQ), which means that a certain amount of steel and aluminum in EU countries will be exempted from additional import quotas to settle the dispute. When the Trump government waved the tariff stick, many people believed that this practice had nothing to do with national security and operating costs.
Today, the Biden administration uses the “old bottle” of tariffs from the Trump administration to contain the “new wine” to deal with climate change. In fact, it also cannot really reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, as the Democratic Party criticized the Trump administration in the past, it gives the U.S. government an excuse to bypass the Congress and impose tariffs on imports from other countries to make profits for interest groups. The Wall Street Journal of the United States once pointed out that from March 2018 to August 2022, the American beverage manufacturers lost about 1.7 billion dollars due to the tariffs imposed on steel and aluminum products that exceeded the import quota. Of the 1.7 billion dollars, more than 90% were obtained by domestic aluminum producers and smelters in the United States and Canada, and only about 120 million dollars went to the American government.
An energy consulting company estimates that global steel production emits about 3.4 billion tons of carbon annually, accounting for 7% of global emissions. China’s steel output and aluminum output account for more than half of the world’s total, so optimizing steel and aluminum production is also an important factor that China needs to consider in coping with climate change. However, according to statistics, China’s steel exports will total 66.895 million tons in 2021, of which the proportion of steel exports to Europe and the United States is very low, 6.8% to Europe, and less than 2% to the United States.
Therefore, the excuse of imposing tariffs on China’s steel and aluminum exports is completely untenable. Don’t forget that the United States has provoked a trade war with China for more than five years. In 2021, China US trade will exceed 750 billion US dollars, reaching a historical peak. The trade data in 2022 will continue to grow and will probably reach a new high. Imposing tariffs on China can neither solve the trade problem, nor is it a way to deal with climate change.
Climate change is one of the greatest sustainable challenges facing mankind at present, and an important aspect of the crisis in the relationship between man and nature. We used to think that 1.5 ℃ was the critical point of climate change. If the temperature change exceeded this value, the global loss of life and property would be unbearable. It is worrisome that the current global average temperature is about 1.1 degrees Celsius higher than that before industrialization. In the past two years, the earth has seen such disastrous climates as extreme rainstorm, extreme high temperature and drought, which have caused great impact to many countries. The critical point of the disastrous impact of climate change may come ahead of schedule.
To save mankind from such a huge disaster, it is not possible for a country or a region to accomplish it. It requires global joint efforts, including the joint cooperation of China and the United States, to promote strong global action against climate change.
The US government is very aware of the importance of China US climate cooperation. During the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27), John Kerry, the special envoy of the United States for climate negotiations, was pleased to be able to speak with Xie Zhenhua, China’s climate negotiator, and believed that this was progress in climate cooperation with China. This time, COP27 has made no new progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change, which has worried many countries and international institutions. Therefore, neither the United States nor the European Union should run counter to international climate cooperation, compromise the overall situation of global cooperation to jointly address climate change, and do not do anything detrimental to climate cooperation among countries.
Countries dealing with climate change should go hand-in-hand. It is absolutely impossible to cooperate verbally and repel in action. Human beings are in an emergency period to deal with climate change, and countries have no more time to waste on verbal accusations and barriers. The global climate crisis cannot withstand ups and downs. The climate cooperation between China and the United States and Europe is one of the foundations for mankind to cope with climate challenges. Only if we work hard can we make the goals of the Paris Agreement, which the world is striving for, become a reality. (Wang Yuanfeng, Global Times, the author is Vice Chairman of China Development Strategy Research Association and Director of the Center for Carbon Neutral Technology and Strategy Research of Beijing Jiaotong University)

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