World Bank urges China to remain flexible, avoid protectionism

World Bank President Robert Zoellick on Monday urged China to keep flexibility in its economic policies and avoid trade protectionism, reported dpa.

Zoellick said he discussed the importance of resisting protectionism with Chinese leaders and "had a sense that they are maintaining flexibility" in trying to stimulate and rebalance the domestic economy.

"The most important thing that China can do for global stability at this point is to keep its own economy growing well," he told reporters.

"That won't be easy given the downturn in international trade that China is already experiencing," Zoellick said.

"This is why the government's welcome efforts to stimulate the domestic economy will be so important in the months ahead," he said.

The main reason for his visit was to see China's plans for its economic recovery and hear its views on the global economy, Zoellick said.

He warned that 2009 would be a "difficult year" involving "considerable uncertainty."

Zoellick said his biggest concern was the potential impact of the global economic crisis on the world's poorest nations, adding that problems such as soaring unemployment "could lead to political and social unrest."

He added he was also worried about possible protectionism by major trading nations amid rising unemployment and falling prices.

Zoellick said China's recent reductions in food and commodity prices would help millions of poor people, reduce the risk of inflation, and boost prospects for the domestic economy.

"China's efforts to boost domestic demand are good for the global economy," he said.

"They can also help China achieve its own economic rebalancing goal," Zoellick said.

Zoellick travelled on Sunday to the south-western province of Sichuan, where some 80,000 people are believed to have died in a devastating earthquake in May.

He praised the Chinese government's "remarkable rescue and relief effort" after the earthquake and said the World Bank was finalizing a 710-million-dollar loan for reconstruction.

The World Bank lowered its 2009 economic growth forecast for China from 9.2 per cent to 7.5 per cent late last month.

It forecast a continuing slowdown in Chinese exports next year but said the new economic stimulus policies give China a "good opportunity to rebalance its economy" in line with its long-term objectives.

In early November, the government announced a 4-trillion-yuan (586-billion-dollar) package to finance 10 major programmes of infrastructure and other spending over the next two years.

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