Premier calls for SCO free trade zone

Re­gional trade packs will ‘counter set­backs in glob­al­iza­tion’

Global Times - Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Liu Caiyu

Chi­nese Premier Li Ke­qiang on Fri­day called for a free trade zone un­der the Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion (SCO) and said China will con­tinue to broaden its open­ing-up and re­form poli­cies de­spite in­creased pro­tec­tion­ism.

Li called on the SCO mem­ber states at the 17th meet­ing of the Coun­cil of Heads of Govern­ment of the SCO in Ta­jik­istan to launch a fea­si­bil­ity study of a free trade zone un­der the frame­work, in a bid to cope with set­backs in glob­al­iza­tion and the mul­ti­lat­eral trade sys­tem.

“SCO mem­ber states, as the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of glob­al­iza­tion and free trade, should firmly sup­port free trade and the mul­ti­lat­eral trade sys­tem based on rules and pro­mote the lib­er­al­iza­tion and fa­cil­i­ta­tion of trade and in­vest­ment,” Li said in his ad­dress to the meet­ing.

The Chi­nese premier said the SCO states need to deepen co­op­er­a­tion on re­gional se­cu­rity, en­hance mul­ti­lat­eral eco­nomic ties and pro­mote pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity co­op­er­a­tion, as well as im­prove re­gional con­nec­tiv­ity and cre­ativ­ity.

“The speech by the premier is a timely re­sponse to wor­ries of SCO mem­ber states, in the face of the in­creas­ing pro­tec­tion­ist ten­dency of the US which con­tin­ues to pres­sure the new economies,” said Li Xin, direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Rus­sian and Cen­tral Asia Stud­ies at the Shang­hai In­sti­tutes for In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies.

A free trade zone un­der the frame­work and the Belt and Road ini­tia­tive could be the SCO’s rem­edy for uni­lat­er­al­ism, but some na­tions also worry that Chi­nese prod­ucts en­ter­ing their mar­kets could im­pact their own na­tional in­dus­tries, Li Xin said.

Li Xin told the Global Times that the up­com­ing China In­ter­na­tional Im­port Expo to be held from Novem­ber 5 to 10 in Shang­hai is a good op­por­tu­nity for the SCO and the world to dis­miss their wor­ries and learn more about the Chi­nese mar­ket’s po­ten­tial.

More than 2,800 com­pa­nies have reg­is­tered for the Shang­hai expo. The com­pa­nies rep­re­sent 130 coun­tries and re­gions across five con­ti­nents, the Xin­hua News Agency re­ported.

The SCO can also es­tab­lish eco­nomic part­ner­ships un­der the frame­work as an al­terna- tive to a free trade zone, which would pro­mote eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion and al­le­vi­ate trade fric­tions be­tween each other, said Li Xin.

2018 marks the 40th an­niver­sary of China’s open­ing-up and re­form. China will stick to the di­rec­tion of the pol­icy and cre­ate a busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment that is equal for both do­mes­tic and for­eign com­pa­nies, Premier Li noted.

The eight mem­ber coun­tries ac­count for over 60 per­cent of the Eurasian land­mass, nearly half of the world’s pop­u­la­tion, and more than 20 per­cent of global GDP.

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