’Protectionism eroding global business’, says WTO chief

Wednesday, July 10th, 2024 11:44 | By
director general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. PHOTO/PRINT

Global trade “is not having the best of times at the moment”. That is the admission of the director general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (pictured).

“We are seeing increasing protectionism, some undermining of the WTO rules, and some of this is leading to fragmentation,” she tells the BBC.

“Global trade is really part of the lifeblood for making countries resilient - and also for underpinning growth, so we are concerned about that.”

In recent weeks and months these fragmentations have come to the fore with the EU imposing provisional tariffs of up to 37.4 per cent on imports of Chinese electric vehicles (EVs). It followed after the US in May introduced 100 per cent tariffs on Chinese EVs.

Both Brussels and Washington accuse the Chinese government of unfairly subsidising its EV sector, allowing producers to export cars at unfairly low prices, and threatening jobs in the West.

President Biden has also increased import taxes on a range of other Chinese products that he said formed “the industries of the future”. These include EV batteries and the minerals they contain, the cells needed to make solar panels, and computer chips.

Meanwhile, the US has been pouring billions of dollars of government money into green technology, through its Inflation Reduction Act, which aims to reduce a reliance on Chinese imports.

EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis tells the BBC that Europe does not want to close the market for EVs. “We welcome imports, we welcome competition, but this competition must be fair,” he says.

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