China seeks emerging economies’ support for pushback on US tariffs

Call comes as leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa prepare for summit in Johannesburg

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 July, 2018, 7:01pm
UPDATED : Friday, 13 July, 2018, 10:37pm

China has urged the world’s developing economies to join forces against US tariffs as leaders of the world’s five major emerging markets prepare for their annual summit later this month.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will reinforce the message at the BRICS summit in South Africa, one stop on a 10-day overseas trip from July 19 that will include state visits to the United Arab Emirates, Senegal and Rwanda. Xi will also stop in Mauritius for a meeting with the country’s prime minister.

In Beijing on Friday, Chinese assistant minister of foreign affairs Zhang Jun said BRICS – a loose grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – would deal with the challenges posed by “unilateralism” and policy changes in Western developed economies.

“The US has started a trade war despite international laws and rules … BRICS has taken a clear stance on this key matter and firmly opposes protectionism and unilateralism,” Zhang said.

Building a bigger, better BRICS wall against the West’s global order

The US has threatened on Tuesday to impose tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods – in addition to the levies introduced last week on US$34 billion of Chinese products.

Washington came up with the tariffs in response to complaints about market access and forced technology transfers. China responded with similar tariffs of its own on US goods.

Zhang said the US accusations against China on trade were groundless and Washington’s actions were not supported by the international community.

Three of the countries on Xi’s itinerary are rare stops for a Chinese leader but among the emerging economies that he has described as “natural allies”.

His visit to the UAE, a US ally, will be the first by a Chinese president in more than 20 years. He will also be the first Chinese president to visit Senegal in nine years, and the first ever to visit Rwanda.

It comes after promises this week of more than US$23 billion in loans and aid to the Arab states. Beijing has also said it would explore the possibility of free-trade deals with each of the 22 states in the Arab League.

Stumbling bloc: Influence of the BRICS isn’t building, it’s crumbling

In addition, China has sought to expand infrastructure networks in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa to connect countries along the ancient Silk Road trade routes as part of China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”.

Zhang dismissed concerns that the massive infrastructure drive would be slowed by the trade war, a move that some observers say is a strategic move by the US to counter China’s rising and assertive power globally.

“China will host another belt and road summit next year, and preparations are already under way,” he said. “The very purpose of the initiative was to promote trade and cooperation among various countries.”