54 Jaemin Lee
The United States and China are engaged in trade disputes on many fronts.
the disputes are pending at the dispute settlement proceedings of the World Trade
Organization (WTO), while others are addressed bilaterally through respective
domestic proceedings. Trade restriction measures adopted by the United States or
China are readily counterweighted by comparable or similar measures by the other
side. The vicious cycle of measures and countermeasures does not show any sign
of slowing down at the moment and the growing consensus among trade watchers
seems to be that this is just the beginning. In addition, more intense trade disputes,
both quantitatively and qualitatively, are looming on the horizon on almost all trade
The timing of the Sino-US disputes is particularly noteworthy. The bilateral
disputes are taking place amid the changing paradigm of global trade. The
multilateralism enshrined in the WTO regime is currently at a crossroads with the
impasse of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), while the WTO Members
are actively pursuing various FTAs as an alternative. The surge of trade blocs and
fragmentation of trade regimes are an ominous sign for the continuation and
re-invigoration of multilateralism.
The increase of the Sino-US trade dispute combined with many regional trade
world as it operates as a facilitator for the rapid fragmentation of the global trade
regime. As the United States and China are usually the largest trading partners for
many countries, it is not surprising that the trade friction between the two trade giants
affects, for better or worse, the overall trade interests of other countries. If, however,
the Sino-US bilateral disputes somehow create a new global trade environment in
which these other countries are forced to encounter more disputes of their own and
1 See 2010 International Trade Update Proc, available at https://www.law.georgetown.edu/cle/pdfs/227.pdf
(last visited on Mar. 1, 2013); M. Pettis, US-China Trade Relations - The Next Dispute?, Carnegie Endowment
for International Peace, Feb. 17, 2010, available at http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.
cfm?fa=view&id=30975 (last visited on Mar. 1, 2013); A. Mason, US-China Trade Dispute Key Issue at G-20, CBS
EVENING NEWS, Sept. 24, 2009, available at http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-5337960.html (last visited
on Mar. 26, 2013).
2 Id. See also Ariana Eunjung Cha, US, China Locked in Trade Disputes, WASH. POST, Jan. 4, 2010, available at
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/03/AR2010010301961.html (last visited on Mar.
1, 2013). As for the increasing intensity of disputes between the United States and China through the WTO dispute
settlement system and the relevant background, see C. Bown, US-China Trade Conflicts and Future of the WTO, 33
(1) FLETCHER FORUM WORLD AFF. 28-32 (2009).