Trade and Investment

US-China trade war: top quotes from the World Economic Forum in China

U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping shake hands after making joint statements at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. Damir Sagolj: "It's one of those "how to make a better or at least different shot when two presidents shake hands several times a day, several days in row". If I'm not mistaken in calculation, presidents Xi Jinping of China and Donald Trump of the U.S. shook their hands at least six times in events I covered during Trump's recent visit to China. I would imagine there were some more handshakes I haven't seen but other photographers did. And they all look similar - two big men, smiling and heartily greeting each other until everyone gets their shot. But then there is always something that can make it special - in this case the background made of U.S. and Chinese flags. They shook hands twice in front of it, and the first time it didn't work for me. The second time I positioned myself lower and centrally, and used the longest lens I have to capture only hands reaching for a handshake." REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/File Photo  SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES.    TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC1B1E5EF340

'It's a really worrying situation and it's starting to spill over into other parts of our interconnected world' - Wendy Cutler Image: REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Ross Chainey
Content Lead, UpLink, World Economic Forum
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Trade and Investment?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Trade and Investment is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Trade and Investment

This article is part of: Annual Meeting of the New Champions

Trade was top of the agenda at our Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Tianjin, as news broke of a further escalation in the tit-for-tat trade war between the world's two largest economies, the US and China.

Politicians, business leaders and academics all had their say on the rift that is sending ripples through the global economy.

Here's a round-up of some of the key quotes:

"The rules-based multilateral trading system is the bedrock of economic globalization and free trade, and provides important safeguards for win-win outcomes. The authority and efficacy of the system should be respected and protected. Some WTO rules do need to be improved. The right approach is for all to sit down as equals to find solutions.

"The fundamental principles of free trade should be upheld, the interests and concerns of all parties be accommodated, and the broadest possible consensus on reform be built up. Taking a unilateralist approach will not solve any problems." - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang

"We are not happy with the US-China trade frictions but ... you need to plan for the next 20 years. Whatever the US will do, we will have our solutions, based on our principles. No matter what you say, how angry you are, President Trump doesn't know about that.

"What you can change is the things you plan and you choose to do. Of course, you are in a lousy outlook, but that is the same for your competitors as well. You have financing problems, so do your competitors. You don't need to do a zillion things, but you need to do something right." - Jack Ma, Executive Chairman, Alibaba Group


"Talk is cheap. Actions are what matter ...
I hope that both sides come to the table and action follows words." - Todd Rokita, member of the United States House of Representatives


"If you think about the WTO [World Trade Organization], the last time the rules were really updated in what we call a big multilateral trading round was over 25 years ago. The internet was barely around then ... China wasn't even part of the WTO then. And so as a result, we see the WTO today really becoming increasingly on the sidelines of what is going on. And frankly if it does not deal with the need to really update the rules and figure out a way to become relevant, it may even slip into the background more. And that is dangerous.

"It's a really worrying situation and it's starting to spill over into other parts of our interconnected world. It's not just limited to the countries retaliating against each other ... Both sides will need to show flexibility, so the US can't just insist that China just dismantle its industrial policy, but China can't deny that these policies harm its trading partners." - Wendy Cutler, Vice-president, Asia Society Policy Institute


"The analogy I use is football. One team shows up on one side of the field; they are the World Cup champions. And on the other side of the field you have the Super Bowl champions. They're both there to play football but they have very different ideas ... each team plays a very good game but the rules they play are designed to showcase different skill sets.

"The World Cup football team is very agile, they move very quickly, they adjust rapidly. The American football team is more deliberate - every play is planned, every player on the field has a coordinated role, they wear protective gear. Basically the US and Chinese economies are like these two teams, playing on the same field." - Timothy P. Stratford, Managing Partner, Covington & Burling


“The trade war with China is not only affecting China and the US, it is affecting everybody … these kinds of decisions are impacting all of the world – and it should not be the right of one person to decide.”
- Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz, Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment of Cuba


"President Trump, as you know, is a businessman .... and these types of negotiation tactics he is using in politics, usually they will work because the other side will give in in the end. And President Trump knows that time is short, it can't be a long-run thing.

"On a certain level he's going to have to figure out how to get out of this by having his staff negotiate with Chinese experts to come to some kind of understanding ... I don't think he is going to just keep on going until both sides come into a big disagreement and get into a really serious situation." - Jiro Tamura Professor of Law, Keio University

Have you read?
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Trade and InvestmentGeographies in Depth
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

New report details global trade challenges - and other international trade stories to read this month

Khalid Alaamer

June 21, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum