Xi puts up strong defence of free trade

China's President Xi Jinping delivering a speech on the opening day of the World Economic Forum, on Jan 17, 2017 in Davos.
China's President Xi Jinping delivering a speech on the opening day of the World Economic Forum, on Jan 17, 2017 in Davos.PHOTO: AFP

DAVOS • Chinese President Xi Jinping offered a strong defence of globalisation at the World Economic Forum, while cautioning against the protectionist movement endorsed by Western leaders such as US President-elect Donald Trump.

"No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war," Mr Xi, the first Chinese head of state to address the annual gathering in Davos, said to applause.

"It is true that economic globalisation has created new problems, but this is no justification to write off economic globalisation altogether," he said yesterday. "We must remain committed to developing free trade and investment, promoting liberalisation and facilitation through opening up, and saying no to protectionism."

To observers, Mr Xi's appearance in Davos suggested a claim to the kind of international economic stewardship that Mr Trump has rejected.

"If we look back five years from now, 10 years from now, you could say this was a turning point, at which China did move up in the direction of asserting the kind of global leadership role that the US has had for about a century, and might wilfully be abdicating," said Mr Fred Bergsten, former director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Mr Trump has argued that US interests must come first.

Mr Xi said countries "should view their own interests in their broader context, and refrain from pursuing their own interests at the expense of others".

His defence of globalisation came as China's State Council issued new measures to further open its economy to foreign investment. It will lower restrictions in the banking, securities, investment management, futures, insurance, credit ratings and accounting sectors.

WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2017, with the headline 'Xi puts up strong defence of free trade'. Print Edition | Subscribe