Sunday, December 7, 2008

Fierce, Fair, and Unfair Competition the EU-China Trade Race and its Gender Implications

What follows is by Christa Wichterich. Updated Version, June 2008. Publisher: WIDE: Women in Development Europe.

China has emerged as a global player and powerhouse on the international trade map. It is however increasingly depicted as a giant economic monster. As the world’s workshop, the country has become one of the main sites for transnational corporate investment and one of the main exporters of manufactured goods. Against the background of China’s transformation into a market economy, its reckless growth path and social polarization, this paper explores the gender implications of the Chinese trade race and EU’s push for sweeping liberalisation. The author argues that whilst these processes were initiated by the Chinese Government’s ‘open door’ policies, since China’s WTO accession they are increasingly driven by a complex interaction between domestic policies, foreign trade and investment policies, and corporate interests.

After exploring the topical trade and investment policies between the EU and China and their gender-specific effects on the ‘socialist’ market economy in China, the author argues that a key question remains: whether the EU’s concerns about economic, social and environmental sustainability included in the policy documents can change development in China for the better. How powerful and effective is the concept of ‘change through trade’ on social, regional and gender inequalities, or regarding environmental degradation, resource exploitation and energy waste? Concluding points include:

* presently, the Chinese leadership is torn apart between its prevailing interest in economic growth and wealth, spreading social unrest by groups who are marginalised or excluded from welfare, and the pressure exerted by the USA and the EU
* civil society organisations concerned about development issues, social justice and gender equality increasingly challenge the EU’s and China’s trade race by a dual strategy of engagement
* the EU trade and investment policies apply double standards. On the one hand, they attempt to protect EU business and its very interest in efficiency and profitability by the rule of law in China, disregarding the adverse social and environmental effects of this corporate-driven growth path
* due to the competitive advantage of EU companies in environmentally friendly and resource-saving technology, it seems to be possible to link economic interests to environmental concerns. However, regarding issues of social, gender and regional inequality, EU trade and investment policies do not have many answers.

The full document, Fierce, fair and unfair competition the EU-China trade race and its gender implications is available via a link, using Adobe Acrobat, here.

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