Billionaire Commerce nominee labels China ‘most protectionist’ major economy
“The billionaire businessman set to oversee trade policy for Donald Trump
has hit back at Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his bid to become the leading advocate for globalisation,
calling China the “most protectionist” major economy in the world.
The criticism by Wilbur Ross, made at his confirmation hearing to become Trump’s commerce secretary, is
the latest in an escalating torrent from the president-elect and his closest economic advisers against Beijing
which has already sparked concerns of a US-China trade war.
“They talk much more about free trade than they actually practise,” Ross told the Senate commerce committee on Wednesday.
“China is the most protectionist country of very large countries.”
Ross’s remarks come a day after Xi used his appearance at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos to push back against rising protectionism,
widely seen as an effort by the Chinese leader to take the mantle of international leadership in the global economy from Washington.
Ross is expected to play a much more prominent role in setting US trade policy than his predecessors at commerce,
with aides to Trump saying the former investment banker will lead the new administration’s trade team.
That would put the 79-year-old in charge of delivering the “America First” agenda that was at the heart of Trump’s presidential campaign.
Ross has been the president-elect’s most outspoken critic of existing international trade relations,
saying previous administrations have engaged in “dumb trade” with China and Mexico …
Ross said his first priority would be to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, as Trump promised during the campaign.
The incoming administration is expected to notify those countries within days that it wants to reopen the pact.
But he repeatedly singled out China as a major offender in the global economy.
“It’s a little weird that we have very low tariffs and China has very high tariffs,” Ross said …
A third of China’s state-owned companies were on the verge of failure, Ross said, supported only by low-cost loans from state-run banks and other subsidies.
China also was at the centre of global problems of overcapacity in steel and other industries, Ross maintained.
He promised to take a more aggressive approach towards anti-dumping cases,
raising the possibility that he would become the first US commerce secretary since the 1990s
to take advantage of rules allowing the “self-initiation” of anti-dumping cases normally brought by industry.
He also indicated the incoming administration would crack down further on dumping by countries such as China, blaming it for a collapse in global prices for steel and aluminium.”