Russia, China Unite Against U.S. Sanctions, Tariffs

Russian and Chinese leaders are blasting U.S. sanctions and tariffs that they say are undermining the global trading system built by Washington, and said the measures have served to cement closer economic and political ties between Beijing and Moscow, RFE/RL reports.

During a visit to Beijing on Thursday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev accused the United States of misusing sanctions to gain an advantage in world trade and to resolve domestic political disputes.

“It is obvious that all sorts of sanctions, talks about sanctions against Iran, sanctions against the Russian Federation, restrictions on supplies and duties against the EU, China are made in order to solve domestic political problems,” Medvedev said in comments echoed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

The two premiers said the U.S. trade restrictions have revived “protectionist” sentiments around the world and put a “time bomb” under the World Trade Organization (WTO), the global trade arbiter created by the United States and its allies to enforce a system of rules on global trade.

“Protectionism and unilateral approaches harm the multilateral trade system, the core of which is the WTO,” Li said. Both Russia and China had to struggle to meet the Western trading standards imposed by the WTO, but recently have become among the organization’s biggest defenders.

Russia and Iran have been among the main targets of U.S. sanctions imposed by Washington since 2014, when the United States first hit Moscow with sanctions over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Meanwhile, Washington has also been in an escalating trade war with China, with the two economic titans imposing tit-for-tat tariffs on each other’s exports.

One apparently unintended effect of the sanctions and trade wars has been to drive Beijing and Moscow closer together while forcing Russia to rely more on its own economic resources, the leaders said.

To “withstand” the U.S. sanctions, Medvedev said Russia has had to adapt in ways that have benefited the Russian economy, turning to China to expand trade while developing Russia’s own industries instead of relying on imports and technology from the West.

As a result, China has become Russia’s biggest trade partner, he said, and that trade should continue to grow quickly if only because China is the world’s biggest energy consumer while Russia is one of the biggest energy producers.