Coronavirus outbreak: China urges WTO members not to impose trade curbs

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on February 12, 2020

India taking steps to help the country by allowing export of protective masks: official

China has urged the World Trade Organisation (WTO) members to refrain from imposing unnecessary trade restrictions in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

“India, like most other member countries, did not officially respond to the submission made by China at the recent meeting of the WTO Committee on Trade Facilitation in Geneva,” according to a Geneva-based trade official.

New Delhi, however, has no plans to place restrictions on trade with China due to fear of the virus, another official in the Commerce and Industry Ministry told BusinessLine.

On the contrary, India is taking steps to assist the neighbouring country by exporting protective clothing, including masks, the official added.

“At the WTO meeting, China said it hopes members will abide by the WTO rules, respect the authority and professional advice of the World Health Organisation, and refrain from overreacting and imposing unnecessary trade restrictions,” the Geneva-based official said.

Call for solidarity

China contributes in a big way to global economic output and growth, and if its economy is impacted by ‘overreaction’, there will be an inevitable spillover on the world economy, the Chinese representative warned. Members should work together to safeguard the normal conduct of global trade and economic growth in the interest of all, he added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping last week, expressed solidarity with the Chinese people in the ongoing epidemic that has claimed over 1,100 lives. He offered New Delhi’s assistance to deal with the serious health emergency.

At a press conference on Monday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said that India's acts of goodwill fully demonstrate its friendship with China.

Officials said that ports in India need to be careful to ensure that shipments from China are handled with care and all sanitary and phytosanitary norms and conditions are adhered to.

Trade imbalance

China is one of India’s leading trading partners.

However, the big trade surplus that China enjoys with India is a source of concern for the country. While India's exports stood at only $16.75 billion in 2018-19, imports were at $70.31 billion, leading to a trade imbalance of $53.57 billion.

Published on February 12, 2020

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