No preference for domestic players in stimulus efforts, says vice-minister The mainland would not attach a 'Buy China' requirement to its stimulus measures even though the global economic slowdown was having an increasing impact on the economy, a top Ministry of Commerce official said yesterday. Vice-Minister Jiang Zengwei is the first top mainland official to rule out a policy that would favour domestic suppliers over their foreign counterparts in meeting domestic demand. This is in contrast to the United States, where there are several 'Buy America' clauses in stimulus packages going through Congress that require certain purchases to be made from US firms. 'Why should one be protectionist under the current circumstances?' Mr Jiang told reporters in Beijing. 'I don't think China will implement 'Buy China'. As long as there's demand, we'll treat domestic and foreign products in the same way.' Beijing has unveiled a 4 trillion yuan (HK$4.5 trillion) stimulus package, and several local governments have taken their own measures. 'Some cities, like Chengdu and Hangzhou, have sent out coupons to residents, which have been effective in boosting consumption,' Mr Jiang said. 'I think it is feasible as a tentative and temporary measure to bolster the economy under the special circumstances.' The government has emphasised the focus of stimulus efforts should be on spurring domestic demand, which has been undermined by an inadequate social welfare system and crippled retail chains in rural areas. Beijing would help some domestic retail giants carry out its macroeconomic policies, Mr Jiang said. 'The government is fostering some trans-regional retailers to make them grow into giants like Wal-Mart Stores, Carrefour and Metro and take on social responsibilities,' he said, without specifying the measures Beijing would take. The State Council said in December the government would facilitate mergers and acquisitions of retailers. The mainland has launched campaigns like 'household appliances going to rural areas' to boost consumption among the 700 million farmers by asking retailers to hold promotions in rural areas. When asked if the support to domestic players would result in the creation of monopolies, Mr Jiang said the process of strengthening retailers would be done through 'adequate market competition'. Analysts said such a move might lead to complaints from foreign players, as they are supposed to be treated equally under the country's World Trade Organisation commitments. 'I can't image what China will do. They can't simply [favour] domestic retailers,' said an analyst. 'Also, retail sales will not go up as easily as the government wishes. Income prospects are weighing on consumption.' Retail sales grew 13.8 per cent year on year during the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, down from 16 per cent during the holiday last year, the ministry said. The China National Commercial Information Centre, an organisation affiliated with the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, said the 100 key large retailers saw sales grow 6.6 per cent for the period, a much slower pace than the ministry's figure.