China-EU Relations

Focus

Chinese netizens spurring protectionism, says EU chamber

22.04.10 @ 09:18

  1. By Andrew Willis

BRUSSELS - The growing nationalist sentiment expressed by Chinese internet users is making the country more protectionist, according to Joerg Wuttke, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China.

  • Chinese internet users are leading to growing nationalist sentiment, says the chamber (Photo: European Commission)

"When we meet [Chinese] officials they are very worried about the netizens. They really feel they have to be responsive to these interest groups," said Mr Wuttke earlier this week (20 April).

Local firms are also becoming more adept at lobbying Beijing, said the chamber's president, leading to a slowdown of market-opening reforms.

As a result, foreign businesses operating in China are suffering. "The pie is getting bigger and the door is getting narrower," Mr Wuttke told reporters at a press briefing. "We are losing out on opportunities."

The comments are to be followed up by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who travels to China next week to meet the country's premier, Wen Jiabao, with questions of trade and market access high on the agenda.

The EU has frequently expressed concern over the apparently unequal treatment of European firms in China, while Beijing is dismayed by the growing number of anti-dumping measures taken against Chinese products.

Currency

Europe appeared to gain a number of important allies this week regarding another of its main economic gripes with the Asian behemoth, the question of currency manipulation.

Speaking ahead of a G20 meeting of finance ministers and central bankers in Washington on Thursday, both Indian and Brazilian central bank presidents expressed the need for a stronger Chinese yuan.

Europe and the US have repeatedly said they consider the currency to be artificially undervalued, to the detriment of their exporters, but Beijing has so far rebuffed the accusations.

A stronger Chinese currency is "absolutely critical for the equilibrium of the world economy," said Henrique Meirelles, head of the Brazilian central bank.

The increasing pressure from developing countries was also signaled by statement's from Duvvuri Subbarao, governor of the Reserve Bank of India. "If China revalues the yuan, it will have a positive impact on our external sector," Mr Subbarao said.

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