Xi vows to further open China's doors to free trade

He calls on nations to oppose protectionism, warns against law-of-the-jungle practices

Chinese President Xi Jinping also promised to "step up" efforts to lower tariffs and speed up the opening of the telecommunications, education and cultural sectors. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday promised to further open up the country's markets and reiterated support for free trade and globalisation at the start of a major import fair in Shanghai.

He called on countries to "clearly oppose protectionism and unilateralism" and warned that "as globalisation deepens, the practices of the law of the jungle and winner-takes-all are a dead end".

This comes on the eve of the midterm elections in the United States, which are being closely watched for signs of whether the Trump administration's protectionist policies continue to enjoy political support.

The Chinese leader also rebutted the United States' criticism of China's trade and business practices, which has, in part, sparked a trade war between the two giant economies.

"Countries should strive to improve their business environments and solve their own problems. They must not always whitewash themselves and blame others," he told a gathering at the inaugural China International Import Expo.

"You cannot be like a torchlight that exposes only others but not yourself," he said.

Mr Xi defended China's decision to expand imports as "a long-term consideration" rather than a "stop-gap measure", as perceived by some.

The country's imported goods and services are estimated to exceed US$30 trillion (S$41.3 trillion) and US$10 trillion, respectively, in the next 15 years, he added.

Mr Xi also promised to "step up" efforts to lower tariffs and speed up the opening of the telecommunications, education and cultural sectors.

He assured foreign companies, of which more than 3,600 are taking part in the Shanghai fair, that their interests will be protected. Those who steal intellectual property - a major complaint of foreign firms in China - will face "significantly" higher costs, he said.

Mr Xi also dispelled suggestions that the trade war is hurting China.

He likened the Chinese economy to a big ocean rather than a small pond. "While storms can knock over a small pond, it cannot overturn the big ocean. After countless storms, the ocean is still there! After more than 5,000 years of hardship, China is still here! Looking to the future, China will always be here," he said to applause punctuating each sentence.

UOB senior economist Suan Teck Kin noted that Mr Xi's reassurances on the economy provide confidence not just to his foreign guests but also to the domestic audience.

"It offers a glimpse of hope and confidence amid the gloomy outlook of the global trade situation," said Mr Suan.

Mr Xi also announced the expansion of Shanghai's Free Trade Zone and the establishment of a new "technology innovation board" on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

Observers said this comes as Beijing gives more backing to the private sector and encourages innovation to mitigate the impact of the China-US trade war.

Mr Xi said the new board will adopt a registration-based initial public offering (IPO) system.

This could mean these new listings would be more loosely regulated, allowing the market to play a dominant role in deciding when companies can sell shares publicly, reported Reuters.

Under the current system, all mainland IPOs must be vetted by regulators.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 06, 2018, with the headline Xi vows to further open China's doors to free trade. Subscribe