ECONOMY

Chinese State Media Blasts U.S. Plan for Digital Trade Deal

Chinese state media outlets have criticized the U.S. over discussions for a digital trade agreement among Indo-Pacific economies, calling them a bid to protect American hegemony and the profits of tech companies.

Agreements signed by the U.S. “invariably serve the U.S.’ bid to defend its hegemony — a magic word incorporating security, values and interests — while to the signatory countries, these U.S.-dominated agreements are more like shackles restricting trade and their freedom of cooperation,” China Daily said in an editorial published online Tuesday evening.

The English-language newspaper said that since Washington cannot decouple the U.S. economy from China’s, “it is therefore absurd for it to try to force other countries to do that without finding them new sources of goods, services and capital to fill the vacuum caused by it forcing them to sever ties with China.”

The Biden administration is discussing proposals for a digital trade agreement as it seeks ways to check China’s influence in the region, according to people familiar with the plans. Details of the potential agreement are still being drafted, but the pact could include countries such as Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore. The deal could set out standards for the digital economy, including rules on the use of data, trade facilitation and electronic customs arrangements.

The state-run Global Times said in an opinion piece that “the U.S. is fixated on grouping together small circles and portraying China as a ‘common enemy’ in the digital economic sector to lure other countries into a group building on its own rules.”

It added: “By being in a position to set the rules, the U.S., as a front-runner in digital technology and economy could help guarantee the excess earnings of American digital giants and maintain its hegemonic status.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a news briefing Tuesday in Beijing that he wasn’t aware of any proposal but added that a potential agreement “violates the laws of economy and the shared aspiration of countries in the region.”

“It fully exposes its plot to gang up against China and contain its development and obstruct the common development of countries in the region,” he said. “It is doomed to fail.”

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