China, Belgium voice opposition against protectionism amid economic downturn

13:25, October 10, 2009      

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Political and business leaders from China and Belgium reiterated their opposition against protectionism on Friday amid reports that the European Commission is poised to propose extending anti-dumping duties on Chinese shoes.

"We should take concrete action to fight against all forms of protectionism in trade and investment," Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping said in an opening address to the Belgium-China Economic and Trade Forum, which was held in Brussels Friday and brought together more than 300 people from Chinese and Belgian companies.

Xi said further development of China-EU relations faced new challenges as well as opportunities in the face of a number of international issues, including the global financial crisis.

"I believe that the perspective of the mutually beneficial cooperation between China and the EU has a better future with the joint efforts of the two sides," said Xi, who was on an official visit to Belgium, the first leg of his five-nation European tour.

Zhong Shan, Chinese vice Minister of Commerce, said the fact that China sent a business delegation with more than 100 Chinese companies to Belgium for trade and investment showed its willingness to join hands with other countries in the fight against the financial crisis.

"The Chinese government stands firmly against protectionism. We hope Chinese and Belgian companies can strengthen their ties and bring the economic and trade relations between the two countries to a new level," Zhong said.

Thomas Leysen, president of the Federation of Enterprises in Belgium (EFB), which hosted the forum, told the audience that one of the two major lessons to be learned in the financial crisis was not to slide into protectionism.

"Belgium is small but a very open country. It believes that international trade and investment are key drivers of global growth. EFB is convinced that an open trade system is crucial for guaranteeing a return to viable growth in the coming years," he said.

Leysen called on world governments to keep the promises to avoid protectionism they made at the G20 summits in Washington, London and Pittsburg.

Bernard Dewit, chairman of Belgian Chinese Chamber of Commerce, warned protectionism was not a solution to the crisis and countries resorting to protectionism would in the end pay for that.

"It is not by working each in our corner that we will be able to overcome this economic crisis," he said.

Yves Leterme, Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, praised China's role in maintaining its own growth and supporting the global economy, in particular in confidence building.

"Your country (China) plays a key role in this recovery and the recovery of world economy," Leterme said. "This is due to your wise banking, your robust government spending and stimulation of internal demand."

"We should not under-estimate the vital 'commodity' China has exported since the start of the crisis. That commodity is called confidence, the most precious thing," he added.

Faced with the worst economic crisis in decades, the EU has launched a series of anti-dumping actions against China this year, covering a wide range of Chinese products.

In the latest move, the European Commission is expected to propose an extension of anti-dumping duties on Chinese leather shoes for another 15 months, despite opposition from EU industry, retailers, consumers and a majority of member states.

The EU decided three years ago to levy anti-dumping duties up to 16.5 percent on imports of Chinese leather shoes from Oct. 7, 2006, which lasted 2 years, instead of 5 years in usual cases.

However, the commission launched a review to decide whether to continue the measures when they should have expired in Oct. 2008. During the review period, which usually lasts 12 to 15 months, the duties have remained in effect.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce has warned the EU against its abuse of anti-dumping measures, calling on the 27-nation bloc to refrain from protectionism.

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