China’s treat­ment of S. Korean firms puts spot­light on free trade com­mit­ment

New Straits Times - - Business World -

PRES­I­DENT Xi Jin­ping has in re­cent months cham­pi­oned an in­ter­na­tional sys­tem of rules for free trade.

Now his coun­try’s treat­ment of South Korean com­pa­nies amid a mis­sile shield spat is rais­ing ques­tions about those glob­al­i­sa­tion cre­den­tials.

South Korea could con­sider ac­tion at the World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WTO) or via its bi­lat­eral free trade deal ar­range­ments as China re­tal­i­ated for its move to de­ploy a United States mis­sile de­fence sys­tem, said Vice Trade Minister Woo Tae-hee in a state­ment.

The min­istry met with as­so­ci­a­tions from 13 in­dus­tries yes­ter­day as Chi­nese tourism in South Korea takes a hit.

“A se­ries of ac­tions by China recently don’t com­ply with the idea that the bi­lat­eral free trade agree­ment should be mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial, and we hope China swiftly moves to im­prove in­vest­ment cir­cum­stances,” added Woo.

The dis­pute high­lights for Xi the dis­tance China may need to travel to con­vince other coun­tries that it is se­ri­ous about sup­port­ing free trade and the WTO, in re­sponse to the pro­tec­tion­ism method prac­tised by US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

With Trump with­draw­ing the US from a 12-na­tion Pa­cific trade pact, China has been ad­vo­cat­ing for progress on a sep­a­rate 16coun­try Asia deal.

In a speech in Davos in Jan­uary, Xi urged global busi­ness and po­lit­i­cal elites to re­ject trade wars, liken­ing pro­tec­tion­ism to “lock­ing your­self in a dark room”.

A trade war only hurts both sides, he added.

China and South Korea con­cluded talks in 2014 on a free trade deal and it took ef­fect in late 2015.

Xi said on the side­lines of the Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion fo­rum in Bei­jing in 2014 the na­tions were “shoul­der-to-shoul­der good neigh­bours and good part­ners”.

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