XI’S CREDENTIALS UNDER SCRUTINY
China’s treatment of S. Korean firms puts spotlight on free trade commitment
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”.