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'Unnecessary fights' are bad for business

By Lu Haoting (China Daily)

09:28, January 26, 2013

The European Union should not translate its economic difficulties into protectionist policies by looking for "unnecessary fights" with China as it slowly repairs its own economy, a former EU trade commissioner has warned.

Such "bad trade policies or habits" would not be good for Europe in the short term and would also risk damaging the long-term relationship between two of the world's biggest traders, former EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson told China Daily.

'Unnecessary fights' are bad for business

Mandelson's comments came as the latest statistics showed China's trade with the debt-ridden EU slipped 3.7 percent year-on-year to $546 billion in 2012, the first annual drop in the three years since the onset of the global financial crisis.

Sino-EU trade is not expected to see dramatic growth this year, Mandelson said, as Europe is still "slowly turning around the situation" despite the removal of the threat to the euro.

"You are not going to see a dramatic breakthrough in the coming year," Mandelson said.

"What is happening in trade is a reflection of what is happening in the European economy as a whole. We all need the levels of economic activities and levels of trade to rise because that will signify an economic recovery. But that is going to be slow."

The International Monetary Fund downgraded its near-term forecast for the eurozone on Jan 23, with the region's economy expected to contract by 0.2 percent this year. The IMF previously expected the region to record growth of 0.2 percent in 2013.

The World Bank also expected growth of the eurozone to return to positive territory only in 2014, with the GDP expected to contract 0.1 percent this year.

"For Europe, because of our anxiety and our defensiveness over what's happened in the economy, it would be wrong if we would become more protectionist in our markets," he said.

There is a risk of escalating trade frictions this year as some in the EU showed "more militancy over trade vis-a-vis China", said Mandelson, who served as the trade commissioner from 2004 to 2008.

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