The global financial crisis is no doubt a catalyst for trade protectionism. As the world economy
deteriorates, some countries try to boost growth prospects by erecting trade barriers. China calls on
these governments not to replay history and revert to protectionism and economic isolationism.
Previous global economic crises were usually accompanied by frequent trade disputes. The United
States' erection of large-scale tariffs in 1930, for example, triggered a retaliatory global trade war.
During the two oil shocks in the 1970s and 1980s, trade frictions emerged when major economies
attempted to increase exports by depreciating their currencies. And in the wake of the 1997 Asian
financial crisis, there was a notable uptick in antidumping actions, countervailing duties and other
The financial crisis is now spilling over into the real economy, hitting sectors like manufacturing and
services. In almost all countries, factories are closing and unemployment is rising, creating political
pressure and social problems. More and more governments are strengthening intervention in their
economies under the excuse of 'economic security' and protecting vulnerable domestic industries to
curb imports from other countries, especially those in emerging markets.
Trade protectionism differs from legally acceptable measures to protect trade. It is an abuse of remedies
provided by multilateral trade rules. This kind of protectionism is morphing into more complex and
disguised forms, ranging from conventional tariff and nontariff barriers to technical barriers to trade,
industry standards and industry protectionism.
With the economic crisis worsening, caution must be taken even in employing trade protection
measures consistent with World Trade Organization rules. At the Group of 20 Financial Summit in
November 2008, world leaders called for countries to resist trade protectionism and committed
themselves to refraining from erecting new barriers to trade and investment, a message strongly echoed
by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit at the end of last year, and the World Economic
Forum held in Davos last month.
History tells us that trade protection measures hurt not only other countries, but eventually the country
that erected that trade barrier in the first place.
To counter the Great Depression, the U.S. adopted the Smoot-Hawley Act in 1930, which raised import
duties of over 20,000 foreign products significantly and provoked protectionist retaliation from other
countries. Faced with that crisis, other countries pursued beggar-thy-neighbor policies that slashed
global trade volumes from $36 billion in 1929 to $12 billion in 1932. Among the victims, not the least
was the U.S. itself, where exports shrank from $5.2 billion in 1929 to $1.2 billion in 1932. Even in the
U.S., the Smoot-Hawley Act was widely believed to be a catalyst that aggravated the effects of Great
Global trade is now in dire straits. Thanks to shrinking external demand caused by the economic crisis,
major trading countries have seen their export growth tumble or have suffered huge contractions.
Germany's exports dropped 10.6% in November 2008, compared to the same period the prior year --
the highest one-month drop since 1990. China also experienced negative export growth in November,
and a 17.5% decline last month, when compared to the prior year. Protectionist policies would make
things even worse and the consequences would be hard to predict.
In the heat of the crisis, it's critical that all countries refrain from pointing fingers at each other or
pursuing their own interests at the expense of others. The financial crisis reflects a chronic illness
resulting from global economic structural imbalance and financial risk accumulation, and there is no
quick fix to this malady. The fundamental interest of every country is to step up consultation and
cooperation and keep international trade smoothly flowing. Healthy international trade can help revive
the world economy. During the Great Depression, the U.S. recovered from its economic woes because
the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration implemented the New Deal and shunned protectionism.
Today's unprecedented financial crisis has inflicted a severe impact on China and other countries as
well. China's economic growth has slowed, exports have plunged and unemployment pressure has
mounted. Yet even so, China still firmly believes that trade protectionism isn't a solution to the world's
problems. In 2008, amid a contraction in global trade, China imported $1.133 trillion worth of goods
from countries around the world -- an 18.5% increase over the prior year. These imports are boosting
the economic development of China's trading partners. Since the crisis broke out, the Chinese
government has decisively put forward a series of measures aiming at stimulating domestic demand.
Given the size and openness of our country, the growth in China's domestic markets can be translated
into greater market potential and investment opportunities for other countries. This year China will
continue to increase imports and send buying missions abroad for large-scale purchase of equipment,
products and technology.
China has always championed our mutually beneficial opening-up policy and advocated international
economic cooperation. We maintain that the Doha Round of global trade negotiations should be taken
forward in a way that meets the interests of members and complies with the multilateral trading system
already established. China is ready to stand together with all nations in the world to face up to the
challenges of today, tackle the financial crisis through cooperation and guide the world economy into a
new period of prosperity.
(Editor's Note: Mr. Chen is minister of commerce for the People's Republic of China.)
历 次全球经济危机往往都伴随着贸易争端的高发。1930 年美国政府大范围提高关税，引发了全球范围报复性贸易战。上世纪七八十年代两次石油危机
时，主要国家 放任货币贬值以扩大出口的作法引发了贸易摩擦。1997 年亚洲金融危机之后，全球反倾销、反补贴和保障措施案件明显增多。
及产业保护主 义，当前贸易保护主义的形式更加复杂多样，隐蔽性更强。在危机加剧的背景下，即使符合 WTO 规则的保护措施也应慎用，这已成为各
国共识。在 2008 年 11 月举行的 G20 金融峰会上，各国领导人同声呼吁抵制贸易保护主义，承诺在未来一年内，避免设置新的贸易和投资壁垒。年底的
APEC 领导人会议和今年初的世 界经济论坛达沃斯年会，再次发出了反对保护主义强音。
1930 年美国为了应对经济危机，颁发了《斯姆特－霍利关税法》，大幅提高超过 2 万种外国商品的进口关税，结果引起了其他国家的贸易保护主义报
复。面对危机，各国 以邻为壑，全球贸易总额大幅缩减，从 1929 年的 360 亿美元缩小到 1932 年的 120 亿美元，美国自身也深受其害，出口总额从 1929
年的 52 亿美元左 右缩减到 1932 年的 12 亿美元。这一法案即使在美国国内也被普遍认为是大萧条加剧的催化剂。
如今全球贸易形势已相当严峻：经济危机导致 外需衰退，各主要贸易国的出口增速已急剧下滑，甚至出现大幅萎缩。德国 08 年 11 月份出口额较前月大
幅下滑 10.6%，为 1990 年以来的最大单月降幅。 中国 08 年 11 月以来出口连续出现负增长，其中 09 年 1 月出口下降了 17.5%。如果未来贸易保护主义泛
此，中国仍坚定 认为，贸易保护主义是条死胡同。在全球贸易萎缩的情况下，2008 年中国从各国进口 11331 亿美元的商品，增长 18.5％，促进了贸易伙