Case Study: China-US Trade Dispute: Where is the ‘Grey Rhino’?


A trade relationship between the US and China has been on the headlines for many years. With the next phase of the Russia – Ukraine conflict and the growing distress in the global economy, there could be a fresh cycle of China – US trade disputes in the coming months. 

One of our clients recently hosted an event where they invited an International Trade and Regulatory lawyer expert from Hong Kong.  The expert previously worked in the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), where he was handling the U.S.- China disputes and negotiations, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) disputes, and Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations.

The expert covered topics surrounding US sanctions against Russia and China and the wider picture of US trade policy under the Biden administration. He also clarified specific trade legislation issues to the wider financial institution audience.

Below are some example questions that was discussed during the session: 

US sanctions
  • What sectors in Russia are now most exposed in the US financial/ trade sanction on Russia, and therefore are in dire need of support?
  • Are there any means for China and other countries to carry out commercial trade / investment with Russia without triggering secondary sanction?
 US trade policy under the Biden administration
  • The US Trade Representative Katherine Tai has highlighted her “fundamental concerns” over “China’s trade practices” and “their harmful impacts on the US economy”. What trade practices were referred to here? With her belief that these issues were not addressed in the Phase One Agreement, how would the Biden administration approach these issues? 
  • How would the Biden administration press ahead with the Trump-era tools, namely the Section 301 tariffs, Section 232 tariffs, Section 201 tariffs, investment ban (NS-CMIC List) and the delisting rules? etc.

Trade policy is increasingly linked to geopolitical risks, and in light of this constantly shifting geopolitical landscape and new pressures such as climate change major trading blocs are adapting their approach to trade.

Then, there is a question – how do you develop investment approaches or supply chains that can last for the long term on ground that’s constantly shifting?