Posted on Apr 11, 2020
In a recent poll asking the question "In the light of China's obfuscation and failure to alert the world to the true scale of the coronavirus outbreak, would you support a boycott of Chinese made products?", 61.9% of respondents answered "Yes".
The European Union and China are two of the biggest traders in the world. China is now the EU's second-biggest trading partner behind the United States and the EU is China's biggest trading partner. The bloc imports industrial and consumer goods, including machinery and equipment, footwear and clothing, and many other items, valued at €362 billion, and is currently running a staggering €164 billion trade deficit.
This theoretically gives the EU significant leverage over Beijing, but in reality it is an asymmetrical relationship, and one in which Brussels sometimes appears afraid to upset or offend.
In 2001, in order to gain membership to the World Trade Organisation, China promised to liberalise and reform its economy. Despite this the country persist in practices that would not be so readily overlooked in a less powerful member, including:
- A lack of transparency;
- industrial policies and non-tariff measures that discriminate against foreign companies;
- strong government intervention in the economy, resulting in a dominant position for state-owned firms, unequal access to subsidies and cheap financing, and;
- poor protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights
Across the Atlantic Donald Trump has called for Americans to boycott Chinese goods, urging retailers such as Walmart to stop stocking anything made in China. The retail giant has previously mooted a plan to source goods from elsewhere in response to rising cost resulting from Trump's sanctions. Chinese imports currently account for approximately 10% of Walmart's sales.
Republican Senator Rick Scott supported the idea, saying "They don't open up markets, they steal our technology, they are completely non-transparent in this process".
In India calls for a boycott are also growing, and the country's Commerce Department is considering imposing duties on over 100 products that India imports heavily from China in light of the coronavirus outbreak.
In the UK, an online call for a boycott has, at the time of writing, received more than 78,000 signatures.
In a separate context the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China has issued a report warning that Chinese companies could swamp lucrative sectors with Chinese products, just like low-ended manufacturing sector over past decades.
President of the Chamber, Jörg Wuttke, noted that that Beijing's Made in China 2025 initiative, launched by Premier Li Keqiang and his cabinet in May 2015 may result in markets being swamped with Chinese goods.
As the scale of Beijing's deceit and denial becomes apparent, and the cost in human life and economic growth continues to rise as a direct result, calls for a boycott appear likely to grow.
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