Bei­jing, Ot­tawa dis­cuss as­sur­ances on free trade

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By CAO DESHENG caodesh­eng@chi­

China has called on Canada to join it in safe­guard­ing the global free trade sys­tem and pro­mote the cre­ation of the free trade area be­tween the two coun­tries.

Speak­ing with Cana­dian For­eign Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land by phone on Wed­nes­day, State Coun­cilor and For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi said China has been con­sis­tent in up­hold­ing free trade and safe­guard­ing a mul­ti­lat­eral trad­ing sys­tem with the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion at its core.

The con­ver­sa­tion took place shortly af­ter Canada con­cluded talks for the US-Mex­ico-Canada Agree­ment, which has yet to be ap­proved by the gov­ern­ments of all three coun­tries, in­clud­ing the US.

If the new agree­ment is re­al­ized, it will re­place the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment and give the US a veto when Canada or Mex­ico en­ters into a free-trade agree­ment with a “non­mar­ket econ­omy” — lan­guage of­ten used to describe China.

Wang said China op­poses trade pro­tec­tion­ism in any form as well as dou­ble-stan­dard prac­tices, and any at­tempt to hin­der China from fur­ther mod­ern­iza­tion will not suc­ceed.

Free­land said the sign­ing of the USMCA should not un­der­mine the le­git­i­mate rights and in­ter­ests of other coun­tries, adding that Canada will ad­vance ne­go­ti­a­tions on free trade agree­ments with other coun­tries based on its own de­ci­sions.

In a re­cent in­ter­view with Reuters, US Sec­re­tary of Com­merce Wil­bur Ross com­pared an ar­ti­cle in the USMCA with a poi­son pill. The new ar­ti­cle im­plies that coun­tries of the USMCA will re­frain from en­ter­ing into trade agree­ments with coun­tries that do not be­long to the mar­ket.

China hopes free trade ar­range­ments in any re­gion or any form should be based on prin­ci­ples of open­ness, trans­parency and in­clu­sive­ness in or­der to create a freer and en­abling en­vi­ron­ment for global trade, For­eign Min­istry spokesman Lu Kang said on Thurs­day at a reg­u­lar news con­fer­ence.

On the same day, Com­merce Min­istry spokesman Gao Feng said there is no ar­ti­cle re­fer­ring to the no­tion of a “non­mar­ket coun­try” in the WTO’s mul­ti­lat­eral trade sys­tem.

Al­though the spe­cial ar­ti­cle in the USMCA does not name China di­rectly, it might set an ex­am­ple for par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries to fol­low the US lead if they want to ne­go­ti­ate sep­a­rate agree­ments with China, as the US does not clas­sify China as a “mar­ket econ­omy”, ob­servers said.

The ar­ti­cle in­di­cated that trade fric­tions be­tween China and the US are ex­tend­ing from bi­lat­eral re­la­tions to third party coun­tries, said Chen Fengy­ing, a se­nior re­searcher at the China In­sti­tutes of Con­tem­po­rary In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions.

In this con­text, the rules­based mul­ti­lat­eral trade sys­tem must be up­held, re­formed and de­vel­oped to counter iso­la­tion­ism, Chen added.

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