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China Is the Top Trading Partner to More Than 120 Countries

Ambassador Mark Green

China is the top trading partner to more than 120 countries.

China is the largest trading partner to Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan. Given their proximity, those countries are hardly a surprise.

But it is also the top trader with Russia—and Ukraine. In Africa, China is the top partner for countries like South Africa and Kenya. In South America, for places like Brazil; in the Middle East, places like Saudi Arabia. And China is the largest external trading partner of the European Union.

While recent trade data do not capture all of the fallout from COVID-19 or the war in Ukraine, and the final details of the Biden administration’s semi-conductor-related export controls have not been released, it’s clear that the days of America’s trade dominance have passed.

What’s less clear is who the political champions of trade are in the US. In 2016, then-candidate Trump’s harsh criticism of trade deals like the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement was a central theme of his successful campaign. And despite the Clinton administration’s generally pro-trade track record and her own support of TPP as Secretary of State, candidate Hillary Clinton also opposed it. On the other hand, late last year, Senators Menendez and Portman, Democrat and Republican, sent a letter to Secretary of State Blinken and Trade Representative Katherine Tai strongly encouraging the administration to begin trade negotiations with Ecuador and Uruguay that would use the bipartisan US-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement as the basis for new trade agreements with those countries.

The eagerness these days for stronger trade relations with the US is evident in our allies. Asian leaders, for example, have encouraged the Biden administration to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership—the accord crafted by 11 countries in the wake of the US rejection of TPP—though the Biden administration has indicated that it won’t support the agreement unless significant changes are made.  

In short, a number of nations are looking for stronger trade opportunities. While US policymakers seem to be hesitating on pursuing those opportunities, China is making progress in building new partners and agreements.

About the Author

Ambassador Mark Green

Ambassador Mark Green

President, Director, & CEO, Wilson Center
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