Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 September 2020

Tensions between China and US will be long-term, says Barclays trade head

Chairman of State Bank of India also says global fear of China’s rising technology industry contributes to the dispute

Containers at the Port of Singapore. Trade tensions between China and the United States could last for up to a decade, according to Barclays' global head of trade and working capital, James Binns. AP Photo
Containers at the Port of Singapore. Trade tensions between China and the United States could last for up to a decade, according to Barclays' global head of trade and working capital, James Binns. AP Photo

Trade tensions between China and the United States are likely to remain fraught for a whole generation at least, according to the global trade head at Barclays bank.

"Let's face it, we've always had trade tensions of some sort between different actors out there,” James Binns, global head of trade and working capital at Barclays, told a conference in London on Tuesday.

He said the dispute between China and the US are “a symptom of the dramatic and meteoric rise of China as an economy”.

As China starts to move from an economy based on manufacturing to services, it will have different supply chains and opportunities for banks to finance trade, he said.

Commenting on the country's "One Belt, One Road" strategy, Mr Binns said it would undoubtedly affect relations with America as China extends its sphere of influence towards the West.

“Again, we haven't yet seen the impact of that but what will that look like in 10 years’ time or 15 years’ time? For me, it is all part of the journey of transformation, the emergence of a multipolar world,” he said.

Speaking on the same conference panel, Rajneesh Kumar, chairman of the State Bank of India, said the US as well as China were to blame for the trade discord while other factors such as technology were also at play.

"It's also the capability China has created in terms of technology and it's [still] at a growing stage. Many other countries are fearful of that and the US is one of them. The reflection of it may be in the trade war but you have to look beyond that also," he said.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticised Chinese tech company Huawei and also blacklisted it in May. Many US officials have raised security concerns about Huawei and its attempt to launch 5G networks in a number of countries, including the UK, a key US ally.

Commenting on other macroeconomic challenges such as Brexit, the Barclays executive said the British bank’s clients have been stockpiling more goods since the UK voted to leave the EU. He said there was a spike in March, when the UK was initially due to leave the EU, and is now experiencing another as the extended withdrawal deadline of October 31 approaches.

But Mr Binns said companies are not increasing their debt or loan levels at the same time, an indicator that they are financing stockpiled goods through their own liquidity or reducing investments elsewhere.

However, Barclays has observed the cost of warehouse loans for UK companies surge since the referendum vote in June 2016 to leave the EU.

“I was talking to a client the other day, where we financed a warehouse for them which was meant to support the next 10 years of their business growth. The Brexit impact has filled 20 to 30 per cent of that warehouse this year. And now they're at 90 per cent capacity for that warehouse, so it's having fundamental impacts on clients like that,” he said.

Vinay Mendonca, structured trade and receivables finance head at HSBC, said a customs border in a Brexit environment will drastically affect the supply chain around Europe and the UK.

Some of his clients were worried about what will happen to perishable products, such as food or medicine with short shelf life, he said.

Updated: September 25, 2019 02:37 PM

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