China’s Xi says the nation will speed up commerce talks with the EU, Japan and South Korea

Chinese President Xi Jinping

Aris Messinis | Pool | Reuters

BEIJING – In an important speech on Wednesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke about his country’s plans to play a bigger role in world trade without mentioning the ongoing tensions with the US

“We will work for the early signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and accelerate the negotiations on the China-EU Investment Treaty and the Free Trade Agreement between China and Japan and the Republic of Korea,” said Xi in Mandarin.

The Chinese leader spoke on video at the opening ceremony of the third China International Import Expo, about 12 hours after the US presidential election was over. Xi made no explicit mention of the US, with which China has been mired in trade tensions for more than two years.

As of Thursday morning, it was not yet clear whether US President Donald Trump would win re-election or whether Democratic candidate Joe Biden would become the next president.

“When it comes to the US-China relationship, the biggest problem Beijing will have with a Biden presidency is Biden’s ability to work with US allies,” said Isaac Stone Fish, senior fellow at the Asia Society. in a phone interview. He suggested that such an association could help foreign nations develop a more coherent strategy to contain Beijing.

“Biden himself is far more multilateral than Trump,” he said. “It will be a big change if Biden wins.”

RCEP is expected to be the world’s largest trade deal when 15 countries in the Asia-Pacific region sign the deal as expected later this year.

The EU and China have been working on their own investment deal, but slow progress in negotiations has tarnished hopes for an agreement by the end of the year. Talks were also held between Beijing and US allies Japan and South Korea.

“The omission (in Xi’s speech) of any reference to the Phase 1 agreement or the US is significant,” Stephen Olson, a research fellow at the nonprofit Hinrich Foundation, said in an email. “The broader relationship is so strained at the moment that it seems that both countries are content to push trade issues into the background instead of engaging in trade and taking the risk of an explosion at a time when the relationship is already exist on rocky ground. “

Olson said he wouldn’t read too much in Xi’s comments on the other trade talks, which “were just vague platitudes” and reaffirmed China’s goal of successfully reaching a deal.

Further talks about opening up the market

On Wednesday, Xi went through a list of ways China could further open its market to overseas companies and improve the local operating environment. Initiatives, most of which had been announced earlier, ranged from improving the protection of intellectual property to reducing restrictions on the import of technology.

“Our goal is to transform the Chinese market into a market for the world, a market that is shared and accessible to all,” said Xi.

Xi added that China will play an active role in reforming the World Trade Organization and working with the United Nations, G-20 and other international organizations. He urged countries and companies to work together after the coronavirus pandemic.

Covid-19 first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year before accelerating its spread domestically earlier this year. The outbreak stalled in China but has now turned into a global pandemic.

While the global economy is on the brink of contraction this year as a result of the pandemic, China is likely to be the only major economy growing, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The first China International Import Expo was launched in 2018 to present the world’s second largest economy as a buyer rather than a producer and seller of global goods.

Chinese yuan imports fell 0.6% year over year in the first three quarters of this year, while exports rose 1.76% over the period, according to official figures.

The show said more than 100 brands from the UK would be attending this year. It wasn’t immediately clear how many American companies were joining. Official materials on the Expo website indicated that the attendees were GE, Qualcomm, Cargill, Edwards Lifesciences, Pfizer, and Eli Lilly.

Foreign heads of state and government from Pakistan, South Africa, Chile, Uzbekistan, Serbia, Spain, Papua New Guinea and Hungary should also speak on video at the opening ceremony.

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