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U.S. Trade with China: Selected Resources

This publication provides a brief overview and a selective guide to resources on U.S. trade with China. The resources included address the trade situation between the two countries.

Introduction

Hanjin company container ship at port in the Port of Vancouver. Photo courtesy of Joseph Sams.

The U.S. trade with China is part of a complex economic relationship. In 1979 the U.S. and China reestablished diplomatic relations and signed a bilateral trade agreement. This gave a start to a rapid growth of trade between the two nations: from $4 billion (exports and imports) that year to over $600 billion in 2017. Until February 2019 China was the largest trade partner of the United States, and currently is in third place after Canada and Mexico while it remains the biggest source of imports. China’s exports to the U.S. over the decades have changed from low-value, labor-intensive products to more capital intensive goods. It is now one of the U.S.’s major suppliers of advanced technology products and global supply chains involving China and the U.S. are complex. Moreover, China is the largest holder of U.S. Treasury securities.

The United States and China have several unresolved issues surrounding the bilateral trade between the two countries. The trade deficit between China and U.S. has swelled immensely as the volume of imports from China grew much more rapidly than U.S. exports to China. This large trade deficit has been an issue of concern for economists and policymakers alike. Some claim it as an indicator of Chinese unfair trade practices, while others credit the imbalance to the strength of the Chinese economy and production systems heavily influenced by state interventions. The Trump administration has initiated several tariff measures with a goal of reducing the trade imbalance.

China's currency policy has been another hot issue as China kept its currency intentionally undervalued for many years. However, China has moved to a more market-based currency rate, but China's currency policy is still under close watch. Other issues that affect the bilateral trade flow include China's industrial policies that favor state-owned enterprises, disagreement on China’s WTO obligations, and failure to protect U.S. intellectual property rights.

This research guide offers selected sources of information for those researching U.S. trade with China. The intended audience ranges from trade policy practitioners, scholars, analysts, and business professionals to students and the general public interested in U.S. trade with China, particularly U.S. trade policy with China.

The guide addresses the U.S.-China relationship in general; the general trade situation between the two countries, and specific issues such as trade disputes and trade remedies; the U.S. trade deficit with China; U.S. trade and Chinese state owned firms, the market/non-market economy assessment and competitiveness; China’s currency policies; and investment between U.S. and China. Statistical resources, selected periodicals and databases are provided as well. Also included are links to the Library of Congress catalog searches that allow users to find additional works on this topic. Choose the topics you wish to search from the list of Library of Congress subject headings included in each section to link directly to the Catalog and automatically execute a search for the subject selected. Not all relevant subject headings have been included, but should provide a good starting point. For additional assistance, please Ask a Librarian.