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As trade negotiations between the United States and China heat up, Yale professors have been voicing their thoughts on the growing threat of a trade war between the two countries.

Last week, Jackson Senior Fellow and professor Stephen Roach made headlines for voicing his take on what a resolution to the trade war might look like on MSNBC. Roach called the state of negotiations between the two countries “cosmetic.” While the global financial markets have been preparing for “phase one” of negotiations — or the beginning of a de-escalation of the trade war — Roach said the talk will not satisfy the market’s anticipation. Other professors and faculty members have joined or encouraged Roach in using his position at Yale to participate in discussions of global issues.

“With President Trump driving the U.S. position, anything and everything can happen on a day-to-day basis,” Roach told the News in an interview. “Yesterday, I thought that there was a better than 50-50 chance that we would strike a phase one deal. I thought the deal as it was outlined would be a hollow deal that would accomplish nothing except give Trump something to brag about. Today, he turns around in London and throws cold water on the possibility of any kind of deal.”

President Trump began imposing new tariffs on Chinese goods in 2018 in an effort to crack down on what he called unfair trade practices. The Chinese government’s reciprocation has resulted in what is now a two-year trade war that promises to extend into 2020.

Roach — who previously served as chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia — warned that the economic conflict between the U.S. and China will continue for years to come. Still, he cautioned that the bilateral trade imbalance between the two countries was not the source of the U.S.’s economic problems, noting that the U.S. had trade imbalances with over 100 countries last year. He added that the structural issues behind trade imbalance were not addressed in the proposed phase one deal.

Other faculty members stressed the importance of Roach’s commentary and Yale’s role in global conversations.

Jackson professor Nick Lotito said that he strongly encourages Yale’s engagement in public debate. He added that he fully supports Roach’s choice to share his expertise on a public platform. Jackson Institute Director Jim Levinsohn said that it is fantastic to see Jackson professors engage in contemporary issues.

“Yale is failing its public mission if its leading experts are unable or unwilling to weigh in on major public debates like the trade war,” Lotito wrote in an email to the News.

Still, the trade war has had an impact on Yale’s institutional programs that work to facilitate dialogue between the two countries. Yale-China Association President David Youtz commented that despite the trade war and rising tension between the U.S. and China, the association has been able to coordinate intercultural experiences for nearly 400 people. Youtz emphasized that while Yale-China is a small organization, the engagements it facilitates “have become a crucial bridge” in hard times such as these.

Regarding Yale students’ role in these conversations, Roach urged undergraduates to take classes that touch on conflict, attend on-campus events and gain exposure to the debate.

“Yale does not have an institutional stake in this, but there are a number of Yale professors, myself included, who are participating in debate,” he said.

Stephen Roach’s book “Unbalanced: The Codependency of America and China” was published by the Yale University Press in 2014.

John Besche |