China’s economic growth slows amid trade battle with US

Chinese leaders express confidence their $12 trillion-a-year economy can survive the conflict with US President Donald Trump. (AP)
Updated 19 October 2018
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China’s economic growth slows amid trade battle with US

  • The world’s second-largest economy expanded by 6.5 percent over a year earlier in the three months ending in September
  • ‘Downward pressure has increased,’ government spokesman Mao Shengyong Mao says

BEIJING: China’s economic growth slowed further in the latest quarter, adding to challenges for communist leaders as they fight a tariff battle with Washington.
The world’s second-largest economy expanded by 6.5 percent over a year earlier in the three months ending in September, government data showed Friday. That was down from 6.7 percent for the quarter ending in July and 6.8 percent for the year’s first three months.
Forecasters expected China’s economy to cool after Beijing tightened credit controls last year to rein in a debt boom. But the slowdown has been sharper than expected, prompting Chinese leaders to reverse course and encourage banks to lend.
Communist leaders express confidence their $12 trillion-a-year economy can survive the conflict with US President Donald Trump. But export industries have begun to suffer from American tariff hikes of up to 25 percent on Chinese goods.
Economic performance was “stable overall,” but “we must also see the number of external challenges has increased significantly,” said a government spokesman, Mao Shengyong.
“Downward pressure has increased,” Mao said at a news conference.
Growth in retail spending and investment in factories and other fixed assets, which are much bigger parts of the economy than trade, slowed in the latest quarter, though to still-robust rates.
Retail sales rose 9.1 percent over a year earlier in the first nine months of the year, down 0.1 percent from the first half, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Investment in factories and other fixed assets rose 5.4 percent in the first three quarters, down 0.6 percent from the first half.
Beijing has rejected US pressure to scale back industrial development plans Washington says are based on stealing or pressuring foreign companies to hand over technology. American officials worry they might threaten US industrial leadership.
The conflict with Washington has prompted communist leaders to step up the pace of a marathon effort to encourage self-sustaining growth driven by domestic consumption and reduce reliance on exports and investment.
Beijing has announced tariff cuts, announced plans to end restrictions on foreign ownership in the Chinese auto industry and taken other steps to rev up growth. But leaders have rejected pressure to scrap plans such as “Made in China 2025,” which calls for state-led creation of Chinese champions in robotics and other technologies.
Washington, Europe and other trading partners complain those plans violate Beijing’s market-opening commitments.
Beijing has responded to previous downturns by flooding the state-dominated economy with credit, but that has swelled debt. The ruling Communist Party has told banks to step up lending, especially to private entrepreneurs who generate China’s new jobs and wealth, but has avoided a full-scale stimulus. Forecasters say it will take the measures some time to work their way through the economy.
Washington has raised tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods and Trump says he might extend penalties to almost all imports from China. Beijing responded with its own tariff hikes on $110 billion of American imports but is running out of goods for retaliation due to their lopsided trade balance.
Forecasters say if threatened tariff hikes by both sides are fully carried out, that could cut China’s 2019 growth by up to 0.3 percentage points.
September exports to the United States rose 13 percent despite the tariff hikes, down slightly from August’s 13.4 percent. The country’s politically volatile trade surplus with the United States widened to a record $34.1 billion.
Chinese exporters of lower-value goods such as clothes say American orders fell off starting in April as trade tensions worsened. But makers of factory equipment, medical technology and other high-value goods express confidence they can keep their market share.
Trade accounts for a smaller share of the economy than it did a decade ago but still supports millions of jobs.
On Thursday, the Commerce Ministry promised official help for companies that have suffered due to the American import controls.
“In general, the impact is limited,” said a ministry spokesman, Gao Feng. “Governments at all levels will also take active measures to help enterprises and employees cope with possible difficulties.”


Time to tear down Mideast trade barriers, Davos panel hears

Updated 23 January 2019
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Time to tear down Mideast trade barriers, Davos panel hears

  • Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri, Saudi minister of economy and planning, said a move to ease movement of traffic across the border could be followed elsewhere
  • Majid Al Futtaim CEO Alain Bejjani: Now there’s this seriousness between Saudi Arabia and the UAE, I hope it gets to frictionless trade

DAVOS: Amid global trade wars and the rise of protectionism, Middle East economic and business leaders on Tuesday issued a clarion call for the exact opposite: To ease customs restrictions in the region.
A panel at Davos heard how an agreement between Saudi Arabia and the UAE to boost cooperation — including the reduction of obstacles to trade across the shared border — could be a blueprint for the wider region.
Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri, Saudi minister of economy and planning, said a move to ease movement of traffic across the border — partly through the use of technology — could be followed elsewhere. “We want to establish a reference for others to follow,” he said.
Alain Bejjani, CEO of retail and leisure group Majid Al Futtaim, said “frictionless trade” would give the region a boost.
“Now there’s this seriousness between Saudi Arabia and the UAE, I hope it gets to frictionless trade,” he told Arab News on the sidelines of the Davos forum.
Bejjani declined to say whether that would involve a customs union, a common market or a common currency. Given the imposition of trade tariffs between the US and China, and the rise of Brexit, globalization — something espoused by many Davos delegates — is seen as on the wane.
But Bejjani said breaking down barriers in the Middle East could help it better compete with Western Europe and the US.
“For the past almost century now… we’ve been ingeniously working on making sure we put barriers across the Arab world. The reality is we have a market that’s as big as most of the largest markets in the world… if we’re smart enough to work together,” he told the Davos panel.
Khalid Al-Rumaihi, chief executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board, agreed that Saudi-UAE cooperation was “a great template” for others to follow.
Aside from “opening up” Middle East markets, Al-Rumaihi said harmonizing regulation in the region would also be beneficial to businesses and entrepreneurs.
“If the rules are changing in each country, if they’re not harmonized, it’s very difficult… for an entrepreneur (to understand) the regulatory environment. So they don’t scale very quickly, and that’s something we need to solve,” he said. Talk of freer trade within the Middle East is especially relevant when it comes to the Palestinian territories, which are subject to Israeli occupation and blockade.
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said freer movement and a reduction of duties would help the economy grow.
“We need to see our products being waived (of) customs,” he said. “We need mobility — we’re under occupation.”