SINGAPORE (Oct 8): U S President Donald Trump makes it appear as if he has triumphed with the revised Canada-US trade deal, whereas it is more like a fiddle around the edges of the old North American Free Trade Agreement, with some elements of the previously rejected Trans-Pacific Partnership added. Some see it as an omen, however, for the future of negotiations with China.

This is an inaccurate translation of one trade outcome being projected onto another trade dispute. China is not Canada. It is much, much larger in terms of economic strength. Canada also shares a common language with the US and this avoids misunderstandings. The room for translation error in the US-China negotiations is substantial. In global politics, as with a business level discussion, poor translation can cause unnecessary problems.

For many years, some Western media consistently mistranslated the meaning of “an quan” when it came to understanding Chinese attitudes to food. In Chinese usage, it means “food safety” — as in food that is safe to eat. In the Western mistranslation, it was taken to mean “food security” — as in securing supplies so others could not use it.

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