Yellen warns China on industrial loss

In Business
April 09, 2024



BEIJING:

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned China on Monday that Washington will not accept new industries being decimated by Chinese imports, as she wrapped up four days of meetings to press her case for Beijing to rein in excess industrial capacity.

Yellen told a press conference that the US President Joe Biden would not allow a repeat of the “China shock” of the early 2000s, when a flood of Chinese imports destroyed about two million American manufacturing jobs.

She did not, however, threaten new tariffs or other trade actions should Beijing continue its massive state support for electric vehicles (EVs), batteries, solar panels and other green energy goods.

Yellen used her second trip to China in nine months to complain that Beijing’s overinvestment has built factory capacity far exceeding domestic demand, while fast-growing exports of these products threaten companies in the US and other countries.

She said a newly created exchange forum to discuss the excess capacity issue would need time to reach solutions.

Yellen drew parallels to the pain felt in the US steel sector in the past.

“We’ve seen this story before,” she told reporters. “Over a decade ago, massive PRC (People’s Republic of China) government support led to below-cost Chinese steel that flooded the global market and decimated industries across the world and in the United States.”

Yellen added: “I’ve made it clear that President Biden and I will not accept that reality again.”

When the global market is flooded with artificially cheap Chinese products, she said, “the viability of American and other foreign firms is put into question.”

Yellen said her exchanges with Chinese officials had advanced American interests and that US concerns over excess industrial capacity were shared by Washington’s European allies, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines and other emerging markets.

Pushback

China’s Vice Finance Minister, Liao Min, told Chinese media that Beijing “has fully responded” to the US questions on overcapacity and expressed “grave concern” over restrictions Washington imposes on trade and investment.

Liao said China’s “current competitive advantages are rooted in China’s large-scale market, complete industrial system and abundant human resources,” decrying the “escalation of green protectionist measures by some developed economies.”

“China will not sit idly and ignore it,” Liao said in remarks published on the ministry’s website.

China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress, said in March the government would take steps to curb industrial overcapacity.

But Beijing says the recent focus by the US and Europe on the risks from China’s excess capacity is misguided.

Chinese officials say the criticism understates innovation by companies in China and overstates the importance of state support in driving their growth. They also say tariffs or other trade curbs will deprive global consumers of green energy alternatives key to meeting global climate goals.

WTO RULES Trade curbs on Chinese EVs would contravene World Trade Organisation rules, the industry and information technology ministry said in a statement carried by state media CCTV and China Daily.

The Chinese ministry added that it was committed to support EV exports and would help “accelerate the overseas development” of the industry including planning for shipping and logistics and support for firms to innovate and meet global standards.

Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao voiced more pointed objections during a roundtable meeting with Chinese EV makers in Paris, saying US and European assertions of Chinese excess EV capacity were groundless.

Rather than subsidies, China’s EV companies rely on continuous technological innovation, perfect production and supply chain systems and full market competition, Wang said on his trip to discuss a European Union anti-subsidy inquiry.

Yellen suggested a possible short-term solution was for China to take steps to bolster consumer demand with support for households and shift its growth model away from supply-side investments.

Yellen spoke about the issue at length with Premier Li Qiang and also met Finance Minister Lan Foan on Sunday. She met People’s Bank of China (PBOC) Governor Pan Gongsheng and former Vice Premier Liu He on Monday.

In a CNBC interview after the meetings, Yellen said she was “not thinking so much” about trade curbs on China, as much as shifts in its macroeconomic environment. But she reiterated she would not rule out tariffs.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2024.

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