Chinese vice-premier condemns protectionism as Beijing prepares to counter Donald Trump’s new tariffs threat

Multilateralism will preserve the world economy, says Hu Chunhua at Southeast Asian summit, where other attendees add their support

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2018, 5:16pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2018, 10:46pm

Chinese Vice-Premier Hu Chunhua has called for a rejection of protectionism, saying unilateral trade policies by some countries pose a “most serious hazard” to the world economy.

His comments in Vietnam on Wednesday comes the trade war worsens between China and the United States, which has been pursuing measures widely regarded as protectionist under President Donald Trump.

Leaders of Southeast Asian nations also voiced their support for multilateral pacts at the World Economic Forum on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Hanoi.

However, Singapore said there was no guarantee that a broad agreement on the world’s biggest trade pact, which the countries have been working on with China, would be signed by the year’s end.

Donald Trump threatens to expand trade war to all Chinese imports as US moves ahead with further tariffs

“Some countries’ protectionist and unilateral measures are gravely undermining the rules-based multilateral trading regime, posing a most serious hazard to the world economy,” Hu said in Hanoi.

“We must categorically reject protectionism and unilateralism, firmly support multilateralism, and uphold the world economy and multilateral trading regime,” he said.

Last week, Trump said he was ready to levy additional tariffs on practically all Chinese imports, threatening duties on US$267 billion of goods over and above planned tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese products. China said on Monday it would respond if the US took any new steps on trade.

Trump has criticised China’s record trade surplus with the United States, and has demanded that Beijing cut it immediately.

Trade war: China’s surplus with US grows 10 per cent to US$31 billion as Donald Trump ups ante

If the US imposed a higher tariff of 25 per cent on US$200 billion of Chinese goods, unemployment in China could increase by 3 million assuming Beijing did not take any countermeasures, JP Morgan analysts wrote in a note.

If Washington moved ahead with 25 per cent tariffs on all Chinese imports, about 6 million jobs in China could be affected, assuming no countering steps by China and no change in the value of the Chinese yuan, according to JP Morgan.

Man once ‘most likely’ to replace Chinese President Xi Jinping named as a vice-premier

Meanwhile, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he was not sure if there would be an agreement this year on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade pact, which includes the 10 Asean countries plus China, Australia, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

“[We] hope to achieve a substantial conclusion to the RCEP by the end of this year, but that is not yet assured,” Lee said in Hanoi.

Singapore’s trade minister said earlier this month that nations were aiming to reach broad agreement on the pact at a leaders summit in the city state in November, six years after talks began.

The Beijing-backed RCEP was given new impetus by the US’ withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, to which China is not party.