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US trade restrictions are threat to world economy, south-east Asian leaders agree

TOP Chinese official Hu Chunhua won support from several south-east Asian countries at a World Economic Forum meeting in Hanoi today for his view that US trade restrictions pose a grave threat to the world economy.

Uncertainty and destabilising factors threaten to undermine growth, the Chinese vice-premier declared after Washington and Beijing imposing penalty tariffs on each other’s products in an escalating trade conflict.

Mr Hu did not mention US President Donald Trump by name, but he said that some countries’ “protectionist and unilateral measures are gravely undermining the rules-based multilateral trading regime, posing a most serious hazard for the world's economy.”

He added: “History teaches us that self-isolation leads nowhere. Openness and co-operation are the only correct choice.”

Indonesia Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said that business and trade require a degree of certainty.

Countries in Asia have no choice but to work together now that the US is no longer playing a leadership role, she said.

"Why don't we become the adult in the room? The world is just too big and too important to depend on only one country.”

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong declared that the 10 members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations would work to keep markets and investment open and protect the “rules-based” trading system.

Mr Trump, who sparked the tariff war through his unilateral action against China and, indeed, many of his European allies, is currently poised to decide whether to raise duties on $200 billion of Chinese goods.

Beijing has issued a $60bn list of goods for retaliation.

China matched the earlier US tariff increase on $50bn of imports, but is running out of US goods for retaliation given the bilateral trade imbalance.

However, Jacob Parker, the vice-president for China operations of the US-China Business Council, which represents 200 US companies seeking business in China, noted yesterday that Beijing is delaying acceptance of licence applications from US companies in financial services and other industries.

He had been told this would continue “until the trajectory of the US-China relationship improves and stabilises.”

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