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November 14, 2009

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Hu urges freer trade for developing nations

Chinese President Hu Jintao told business leaders yesterday in Singapore there should be an end to "unreasonable" trade restrictions on developing countries.

Arguing that protectionism stands in the way of a global economic recovery, he called for a push to conclude the so-called Doha round of trade liberalization talks, which has been stalled for eight years.

"The inherent problems of the international economic system have not been fully addressed, and a comprehensive world economic recovery still faces many uncertainties and destabilizing factors," Hu said.

"We must continue to promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation and oppose protectionism in all its manifestations, particularly the unreasonable trade and investment restrictions imposed on developing countries."

China's commerce minister hammered home the point by later telling reporters that developed members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation organization should live up to their pledges of free trade by 2010.

Chen Deming said the use of safeguard measures by "a certain large country" violates international pledges against protectionism, adding that not recognizing China as a free market leads to abuse of anti-dumping rules.

The 21 leaders of APEC, which accounts for more than half of global output and 40 percent of world trade, will agree to stick with economic stimulus policies until a durable economic recovery has clearly taken hold, says a draft declaration to be issued at the end of their weekend summit.

Business leaders, meeting ahead of the summit, agreed yesterday that countries must closely coordinate the unwinding of stimulus packages to keep asset bubbles under control and to avoid derailing a fragile recovery in consumer confidence.

"The moment will have to be coordinated so that countries come out in an orderly sort of way," Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told business executives.

The spending part of stimulus packages is easier to unwind, he said, "because you can gradually tail off the spending and you can watch whether the economy is growing again."

More difficult is winding back the expansionary monetary policies now in effect in much of the world.

"If you withdraw the monetary stimulus too late you risk inflating a bubble," Lee said.

Hu said the focus of the Chinese government's 4 trillion yuan (US$586 billion) stimulus package was on expanding China's domestic demand and creating a new pattern of economic growth.

World Bank Chief Robert Zoellick said consumer confidence was a key factor in deciding when to hand back to the private sector the primary role for stimulating growth.


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