Can developing countries enter into a trade war with developed ones?

By Hanan Zaffar,

An out and out trade war with developed countries, in the present global economic system seems largely improbable. This is primarily because developing countries are both product consumers and service providers of the developed countries, hence heavily dependent on imports from foreign lands to feed their populace as well as providing means of income to the large sections of population, which would be rendered jobless, hampering already fragile economies, if trade ties are thwarted.

However, for developing countries, the idea of entering into trade wars with developed nations is not something unimaginable. Strong regional alliances of developing countries to counter hegemonic of powerful countries is a viable option. For example, if Pakistan today decides to snap trade ties with US, it would be impossible without the support of SAARC nations; considering how much they are reliant upon US for economic and technological needs. In fact, a country like North Korea has been able to sustain itself (even though barely) despite US sanctions only, because of soft support from China. However, in most cases, because of weak regional alliances where internal geopolitical games spoil collaborations, snapping trade ties with developed countries seems largely impossible. Blocs like ASEAN and SAARC need to be exponentially stronger -than what they are now- to even threaten the developed countries of initiating such a move.

In the recent trade tiffs between China and US, need for a strong regional cooperation to tackle trade threats from powerful countries became more evident. As US increased tariffs on some 300 products including cotton, being the largest cotton importer in the world, China faced inevitable crisis, which was averted (uncharacteristically)by India’s help at the critical moment (as India exported cotton to China). So in a bid to safeguard their economic interests need for more cohesive regional alliances by developing countries is the only way forward. Trade wars with foreign powers with imperialistic endeavors can only then be imagined.

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