Tensions between US, China possibility of emergence of two ‘competing blocs’: UN chief

United Nations, August 2

With US-China trade tensions escalating, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that he could see a possibility of emergence of two “competing blocs”, each with their own dominant currency, trade and military rules.

The US and China - the world’s two largest economies - have been fighting a damaging trade war over the past year with President Donald Trump demanding China to reduce the massive trade deficit which last year climbed to over USD 539 billion.

Trump has already slapped a 25 per cent tariff on USD 250 billion on Chinese goods. Trump has also threatened to impose 25 per cent tariffs on another USD 300 billion in goods from China.

Addressing reporters at the UN headquarters on Thursday, the UN chief said that the lessons of the Cold War must be learned, in order to avoid a new one wherein two competing blocs emerge and there is still time to avoid this.

“Looking into the not so distant future, I see the possibility of the emergence of two competing blocs, each with their own dominant currency, trade and financial rules, their own internet and artificial intelligence strategy, and their own contradictory geopolitical and military views,” he said.

He emphasised that with the leadership committed to strategic cooperation and managing competing interests, “we can steer the world onto a safer path.”         

Guterres also expressed concern rising political tensions in the Persian Gulf and between nuclear-armed states.

“A minor miscalculation could lead to a major confrontation,” he said.

Referring to the recent incidents in the Strait of Hormuz – which include the diversion of a British-flagged oil tanker by Iran, UK’s decision to provide a naval escort for tankers and destruction of an Iranian drone by the US, the UN chief stressed on the need to respect the rights and duties related to navigation through the Strait and its adjacent waters, in accordance with the international law.

“The last thing the world needs is a major confrontation in the Gulf that will have devastating implications on global security and the global economy,” he said.

Describing the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty as a “landmark agreement that helped stabilise Europe and end the Cold War,” he said that its end means that the world will lose an “invaluable brake” on nuclear war.

The arms treaty signed by the US and Russia three decades ago came to an end on Friday. It prohibited both parties from possessing and producing ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 km and nuclear weapons.

The US has blamed Russia for developing weapons that violate the treaty, leading to its end.

States with nuclear arms capacity should avoid destabilising developments, and urgently seek a new path towards new international arms control measures, the UN chief said.

These include an extension of the so-called “New Start” agreement between the US and Russia; the 2020 Review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The “New Start” agreement is a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the US and Russia.

“I also call on all State parties to work together at the 2020 Review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to ensure the NPT remains able to fulfil its fundamental goals – preventing nuclear war and facilitating the elimination of nuclear weapons,” he said. PTI