This episode is part of the National Committee’s Coronavirus Impact Series.

National Committee Chair Carla A. Hills delivers a message on the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, specifically its effect on global trade and the phase one U.S.-China trade deal.

Speaker Bio

Ambassador Carla A. Hills is chair and chief executive officer of Hills & Company International Consultants, which provides advice to international firms on investment, trade, and risk assessment issues abroad. From 1989 to 1993, she served as United States Trade Representative. Earlier, Ambassador Hills served as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (the third woman to hold a cabinet position). She is currently on the international advisory board of J.P. Morgan Chase and serves in leadership positions with not-for-profit organizations, including as chair of the board of directors of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.


What impact has the coronavirus had on global trade?

Ambassador Hills: The coronavirus has had a very adverse effect on global trade. We have interlinked supply chains with China. They’re closed down. We cannot make sales and export, and that has created problems for our corporations, our small businesses, and our workers. And the same is true of China too. They are facing an uphill fight with the black cloud of uncertainty hovering over it.

Could there be potential long-term consequences for the Chinese and American economies?

Hills: I hope that, in the long term, that we can find ways to work together to deal with health issues which are going to be facing us in the future. But I don’t think we’re going to see a quick turnaround in the coronavirus. You read the statistics. They’re now in multiple countries and the numbers are still going up. And so this is a big problem. We need to join hands not only with China but with other countries and work together and solve this issue, which is very damaging not only to the economy, to people’s lives.

Will the coronavirus affect China’s ability to follow-through on the phase one trade deal?

Hills: I have no crystal ball about how the coronavirus is going to affect the phase one trade deal. I suspect it’s going to make it very challenging for China to make the kind of purchases that it had anticipated it could make. And therefore, there’ll be additional uncertainty, so that farmers that expected to sell more and others that expected that their exports would flow, I think, are going to be disappointed. But we have to live through this very, very unpleasant circumstance.

What does this demonstrate about the interconnectivity of the global trade system?

Hills: Well, the coronavirus has been a very, very impeding force in terms of connectivity. The fact is that our supply chains have been interrupted. You can’t get that widget in from China because the factory is closed down. That means you can’t finish your product. And the exports can’t go out because the ports are closed. It’s a really very, very difficult problem that not only we face and China faces, but it’s spreading across the globe.