By Chris Adams
Global trade has played a vital role in raising the standards of living for people worldwide. But capturing that in daily, weekly or monthly journalism can be difficult.
Four Asia-based reporters explained in a session with National Press Foundation fellows how they do so. In the process, they connected the mind-numbing world of tariffs, countervailing duties, trade deficits and export control regulations with the shirts you buy at a local retailer or the rice on your dinner plate.
One thing they all agreed on: Trade is a hot – and fun, and exhausting – story.
“It’s a political story, it a diplomatic story, it’s a trade story, it’s a tech story, it’s an agriculture story, it’s a human interest story,” said Anne Marie Roantree (stories, Twitter), the Hong Kong bureau chief for Reuters. “It absolutely touches everything. It’s the biggest story we have. It’s huge.”
All made clear that trade in this decade became a hot topic by the rhetoric and actions of President Donald Trump and the trade war he ignited with China. While the Twitter rants and retaliatory tariffs make for good daily copy, the journalists said some of the best stories are just below the surface and show how other nations in the region are feeling the effects of the U.S.-China skirmishes.
John Carter (stories), senior editor for political economy at the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, detailed how some companies are already leaving China in search of lower wages, rent, raw materials and taxes. “The trade war just gave it a push,” he said. One beneficiary: Vietnam, just to south of China.
Sue-Lin Wong (stories, Twitter), a Shenzhen, China, based correspondent for the Financial Times, detailed her stories that showed another way businesses are working around trade rules. Although goods from North Korea are banned in some nations around the world, North Korean firms are slipping everything from fish to clothing into China for export elsewhere.
And Derek Wallbank (stories, Twitter), a Bloomberg reporter based in Singapore, detailed the shifting perceptions of the trade war between Americans and Asians. Wallbank covered the first part of the trade war from Washington before moving to Singapore.
“People here don’t have an idea how Donald Trump’s mind works,” Wallbank said.
He also detailed one of the major hurdles in trade coverage: “This is a story where you are asking business reporters to pick up on how to cover government – and asking government reporters to pick up on how to cover business.”