Sun, Jan 15, 2017 - Page 15 News List

China not cut out to be a free-trade advocate: experts

By Benjamin Carlson  /  AFP, BEIJING

Unlike the Trans-Pacific Partnership, arduously negotiated under US President Barack Obama — which calls for imposing high environmental, labor and intellectual property standards on its members — analysts say a Chinese-led trade regime would feature limited preconditions to tariff-free trade.

“China has shown that if an agreement is expected to bolster profits, partner countries are willing to hold their noses,” Brian Jackson of IHS said.

China is the world’s biggest trader in goods and its performance affects partners from Australia to Zambia, which have been battered as its expansion has slowed to levels not seen in a quarter of a century.

MORE RELIANT ON CHINA

Under Xi, the Chinese government has moved away from liberalization on several fronts, with strengthened state-owned enterprises, increased capital controls, and heightened restrictions on free exchange of information and ideas online.

Authorities hope to open foreign markets to soak up Chinese overcapacity through Xi’s signature “One Belt, One Road” policy, which calls for constructing vast rail and infrastructure links connecting Chinese exporters to markets across Eurasia.

However, Polk said the aim was less to provide investment for foreign companies, but rather “developing export markets so China can send its goods abroad, so the near abroad can be more and more reliant on China.”

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