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China's warning over protectionism: don't lock yourself in a dark room

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By Seamus Kearney
China's warning over protectionism: don't lock yourself in a dark room

All eyes were on the Chinese President’s address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, as he gave a vigorous defence of free trade.

In the first ever speech by a Chinese leader at the annual gathering, Xi Jinping warned against protectionism, an apparent reference to President-elect Trump’s so-called “America first” policies.

“Pursuing protectionism is just like locking oneself in a dark room,” he said.

“While wind and rain may be kept outside so are light and air. No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war.”

Experts say the speech made it clear that Beijing is ready to play a major role on the world economic stage as the US threatens to turn inwards.

One of those listening to the speech was Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at the consulting firm IHS Inc.

“I think it was a very strong message to the Trump people, as I said, that they don’t want to do a currency war,” he said. “They don’t want to do a trade war.”

“So one way or another hopefully that is heard by the Trump people and they come to their senses in some sense and don’t start a process that could escalate into a trade war.

“Our sense is that the chances of a trade war are still fairly low, but still, you know, never know. “

Trump spoke out often against China during the election campaign, vowing to tear up or renegotiate multilateral trade deals and bring in tariffs on imported goods.