Peter Stephens, the World Bank’s spokesman for Asia said on Wednesday: “In the face of successful development, increased tariffs and restrictions on trade are the worst response. It’s unfair, it’s not going to work and it’s bad policy.”
The US and the European Union complain that their textile producers have been hurt by a surge in Chinese imports since a worldwide quota system ended on 1 January.
Washington has unilaterally capped the growth of Chinese textile imports at 7.5% this year, and some US politicians want to impose up to 27.5% tariffs on Chinese textiles.
In a deal worked out with EU officials earlier this month, China agreed to limit the growth of exports in 10 categories of textiles to Europe to between 8% and 12.5% a year through 2007.
“The notion that somehow by increasing tariffs on Chinese textiles, jobs in textiles are going to return magically to the US is incredible,” Stephens said at a luncheon organised by the Singaporean-German Chamber of Commerce.
Stephens said the import restrictions on Chinese goods would only push businesses to other developing countries where labour and production are cheap, such as Latin American countries or Cambodia and Vietnam.
“It’s perhaps the worst form of hypocrisy to say to African nations, we want to help you get out of poverty as long as you don’t become too successful and actually take jobs from us by trading in our markets”
“Trying to deal with the emergence of China and the rise of India through antiquated measures like tariff protection is like trying to hold back the tide with a little wall of sand,” he said, adding US and EU governments should engage in more dialogue with Asia.
Referring to the American and British proposal to erase the debt of African nations at the G-8 Summit next month, Stephens also said leaders who say they want to help pull starving nations out of poverty should not simultaneously curb development by imposing trade restrictions.
“It’s perhaps the worst form of hypocrisy to say to African nations, we want to help you get out of poverty as long as you don’t become too successful and actually take jobs from us by trading in our markets,” Stephens said.