IMF says China must fix flaws to lead globalisation

That means protecting IP rights and reducing the distortions of industrial policy, overcapacity and policies


HONG KONGChina should be willing to loosen trade and investment restrictions if it seeks to play a leading role in globalisation, International Monetary Fund (IMF) first deputy MD David Lipton (picture) said.

Speaking at the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong yesterday, Lipton acknowledged that China’s leadership has been a “voice of reason” in terms of preserving the current system of rules-based international trade, but the nation also had more to do.

“We believe that effective and credible leadership in support of globalisation also requires a willingness to recognise and address one’s own shortcomings,” Lipton said. That means “protecting intellectual property (IP) rights and reducing the distortions of industrial policy, overcapacity and policies that favour state enterprises”.

Lipton spoke just days after a US trade tribunal said in a preliminary ruling that imports of aluminium sheet from China are hurting American industry, setting the stage for the Trump administration to impose tariffs. Economists worry that heightened USChina trade tension remains one of the biggest threats facing global growth this year.

US President Donald Trump will travel to the World Economic Forum in Davos next week where he is expected to continue his trenchant criticism of globalisation and multilateralism and to threaten new trade barriers to shrink America’s trade deficit with the world.

The aluminium case is one of several the US has launched to curb what Trump sees as China’s unfair trade practices. The White House is also weighing whether to slap tariffs on foreign shipments of the metal under the seldom used section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which considers whether importation has implications for national security.

China should also accelerate its efforts to bring its financial sector to a more stable footing, according to Lipton.

“China has a window of opportunity to accelerate economic reforms that can secure sustainable and inclusive growth,” he said. “China has made considerable progress in this area, as our recent assessment of its financial sector shows. But it is essential to sustain this effort to ensure that financial instability does not undermine the country’s extraordinary economic and social progress.”

China is on track to build up a debt-to-gross domestic product ratio of more than 320% by 2022, a level that would rival Japan’s, Bloomberg economists estimate.

Lipton said during a separate interview yesterday on Bloomberg Television that policymakers are now “pointed in the right direction” on debt.

“The Chinese have to bring credit growth down to grow less rapidly than the economy, or else credit will continue to be too big relative to the economy,” he said.

Lipton sounded optimism about the current state of the global economy, in the context of next week’s publication of fresh IMF economic forecasts.

“The signs point to faster growth across all regions,” he said in his prepared remarks. “We must also recognise that the global economy is in a late stage of the long and gradual recovery from the global financial crisis. With economic slack in advanced economies diminishing, it is not clear how long the good news will continue.”

Lipton’s warning on the world economy echoes a view increasingly shared by investors and policymakers that a growing list of worries from geopolitical tension to frothy markets could upend the world economy’s best performance in years.

The IMF No 2 highlighted a risk of unexpected monetary policy developments or exchange rate fluctuations that could swing market sentiment and trigger a sudden reversal of capital flows. He also pointed to weak wage and productivity growth as among the concerns.

“Our meaning is clear: Now is the time to address vulnerabilities and structural issues that could impede sustained growth, and to take steps to enable stronger growth once cyclical recovery is no longer driving the economy,” Lipton said in his speech. — Bloomberg