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Country to pursue FTAs to build new partnerships

China Daily - 27 January 2024

Country to pursue FTAs to build new partnerships
By Wang Keju

China will push ahead an extensive lineup of free trade agreement negotiations this year, as part of the country’s efforts to foster deeper economic integration and forge new partnerships, opening-up opportunities for increased foreign trade and stable economic growth, officials and experts said on Friday.

By fostering closer ties with other countries, China seeks to enhance market access for its businesses, while providing an open and inclusive platform for its trading partners to share its super-sized market, especially in the face of a sluggish global economic outlook and heightening geopolitical tensions, they added.

The nation will strive to conclude the China-Association of Southeast Asian Nations Free Trade Area agreement 3.0 upgrade negotiations in 2024, as well as the free trade negotiations with Honduras and upgraded FTA talks with Peru, said Wang Shouwen, China’s international trade representative, at a news conference in Beijing.

China will continue to advance its accession into the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement, said Wang, who is also vice-minister of commerce.

Moreover, the country is set to embark on a series of free trade negotiations and upgrades with key partners, including the Gulf Cooperation Council, New Zealand, South Korea and Switzerland, to further build a global network of high-standard free trade zones, Wang added.

Efforts on this front will help diversify China’s trading partners and reduce its reliance on any single market, enhancing its resilience in the face of uncertain global conditions, said Zhang Yansheng, chief researcher at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges.

To date, China has expanded its global trade reach by inking 22 FTAs with 29 countries and regions, representing around one-third of its total foreign trade volume, data from the ministry showed.

China’s foreign trade development in 2024 is expected to encounter a more complex and challenging external environment, as highlighted by subdued global demand, rising trade protectionism and escalating geopolitical conflicts, said Commerce Minister Wang Wentao.

In response to the shifting dynamics, China is intensifying its efforts to conduct policy research and build a comprehensive arsenal of tools in line with the needs of foreign-trade firms, aiming to introduce timely measures that synergize with existing policies and maximize their collective benefits, Wang added.

Initiatives such as expanding trade in intermediate goods, promoting cross-border e-commerce and strengthening low-carbon products are being prioritized to cultivate new growth drivers. Meanwhile, stronger support will be provided to assist enterprises in participating in overseas exhibitions to facilitate market connections and secure more orders, Wang added.

In addition, China is placing equal emphasis on expanding both exports and imports. Leveraging its vast and expanding market, the country offers foreign enterprises extensive market opportunities and collaboration prospects, Wang said.

Increased market access and reduced trade barriers create a win-win situation, benefiting both Chinese businesses and their international counterparts and contributing to the stability and growth of the global economy, said Gao Lingyun, researcher at the Institute of World Economics and Politics, which is part of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

China’s proactive stance in FTA negotiations also aligns with its broader efforts to further open up its market and create a more favorable business environment for domestic and foreign enterprises alike, Gao added.

Going forward, the ministry will continue to identify the difficulties facing foreign-invested enterprises and take proactive steps to address them, so as to enhance the enabling clime for them to invest and thrive in China, Minister Wang said.

 source: China Daily