Premier calls for SCO free trade zone
Regional trade packs will ‘counter setbacks in globalization’
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.