China Voices Concerns Regarding Trade Protectionism
January saw the fourth consecutive monthly decline in foreign direct investment in China as companies cut back further on spending in an attempt to weather the global financial crisis. The commerce ministry noted that investment fell to $7.54 billion from a year earlier, representing a decline of 32.6 percent. While foreign multinational companies still see China in a favorable light, the economic situation is such that there is no spare money to invest, resulting in thousands of toy and electronics manufacturers in China being forced to close their doors.
On Monday 16 February, spokesperson for China’s commerce ministry, Yao Jian, told reporters that China was deeply concerned about the measures being taken by some countries that encourage their citizens to buy domestically produced products, rather than imports. Expressing the belief that this practice amounts to trade protectionism measures, Yao noted that under the current global financial crisis this is counter-productive. While not at first naming any specific country, after being questioned on the “Buy American” clause incorporated into the US economic stimulus package passed by the US Senate on Friday, Yao conceded that this is of particular concern to Chinese authorities.
In a weekend editorial by China’s state-run news agency Xinhua it was highlighted that history has shown that when facing a global financial crisis, trade protectionism has proven to be “a poison to the solution”. Pointing to the depression of the 1930s, Xinhau noted that protective measures taken by some countries, including the United States, resulted in trade wars which further damaged international trade as well as the global economy.
US President Barack Obama has stated that he does not intend for the economic stimulus package to lead to protectionist measures, and indeed the “Buy American” clause goes on to say that the provision on using US products has to be applied in line with America’s obligations to the World Trade Organization (WTO). However, despite the softening of the “Buy American” clause it has attracted criticism from trading partners other than China, with Canada, the United States’ biggest trading partner, also voicing concern.
China has also faced a six month ban by India on the importing of Chinese toys, and while not specifically mentioning the United States or India, Yao noted that China would look to the WTO to ensure that trade protectionism is kept in check. He also stated that China would support any measures adopted by the WTO to “curb the spread of trade protectionism and strengthening the supervision of bailout plans by different countries”.