Trump's 'economic illiteracy' caused the US-China trade war, says professor

  • The U.S.-China trade war was a result of "economic illiteracy" on the part of President Donald Trump, said Jeffrey Sachs, an economics professor at Columbia University.
  • Trump has made reducing the U.S.-China trade imbalance as one of his goals, but that's "a false premise," said Sachs.
President Donald Trump
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
President Donald Trump

The trade war between the U.S. and China — which has threatened global growth — was a result of "economic illiteracy" on the part of President Donald Trump, according to an economics professor at Columbia University.

Trump has on many occasions said the trade imbalance between the U.S. and China is a sign that America is being "ripped off." The president has made reducing that disparity one of his goals in the ongoing trade negotiations between Washington and Beijing.

"The problem with the trade talks is that it's all based on a false premise. The premise is that somehow China's trade imbalance is because of unfair practices. This is the kind of economic illiteracy of the president of the United States," Jeffrey Sachs, a professor at Columbia University, told CNBC's Martin Soong on Saturday at the China Development Forum in Beijing.

"The whole trade war is premised on two false ideas: One is that China cheats ... the second idea is that China is a menace," he added.

CNBC contacted the White House outside U.S. business hours to request for a comment on what Sachs said, but has yet to hear back.

Sachs is not the only one who has challenged Trump's aim to reduce the U.S.-China trade imbalance. Other economists have also said that the the trade gap — which measures imports and exports between two countries — doesn't adequately reveal who's winning or losing in a relationship.

However, others have also said that Trump isn't wrong to accuse China for its unfair trade practices. The European Union, for example, similarly alleged that Beijing forces foreign companies to hand over their technological know-how in exchange for access to its massive domestic market.