China to further open up economy, slams rising protectionism

‘China has opened its door to the world; we will never close it but open it even wider,’ Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in a published article. (Reuters)
Updated 12 November 2018
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China to further open up economy, slams rising protectionism

  • ‘China has opened its door to the world; we will never close it but open it even wider’

SINGAPOR: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Monday Beijing will further open up its economy in the face of rising protectionism, as he headed for meetings with Asia-Pacific leaders in Singapore that are expected to focus on trade tensions.
Li’s remarks in an article in Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper, ahead of his arrival in the city-state later in the day, came as Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called for more regional integration, saying multilateralism was under threat from political pressures.
“China has opened its door to the world; we will never close it but open it even wider,” Li said in the article, in which he called for an “open world economy” in the face of “rising protectionism and unilateralism.” He did not directly refer to China’s bruising trade war with the United States.
Notably absent from this week’s meetings is US President Donald Trump, who has said several existing multilateral trade deals are unfair, and has railed against China over intellectual property theft, entry barriers to US businesses and a gaping trade deficit.
Vice President Mike Pence will attend instead of Trump, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are among those also expected to join Li and the ten-member member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
It was not clear if Li and Pence will hold separate talks on the sidelines of the meetings, which would be a prelude to a summit scheduled between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the end of the month in Buenos Aires.
The encounter, if it happens, would come on the heels of high-level talks in Washington where the two sides aired their main differences but appeared to attempt controlling the damage to relations that has worsened with tit-for-tat tariffs in recent months.
Meanwhile, in remarks at a business summit on Monday ahead of this week’s meetings, Singapore PM Lee said:
“ASEAN has great potential, but fully realizing it depends on whether we choose to become more integrated, and work resolutely toward this goal in a world where multilateralism is fraying under political pressures.”
Lee has previously warned that the US-China trade war could have a “big, negative impact” on Singapore, and the city-state’s central bank has warned it could soon drag on the economy.
Both Singapore and China are expected to rally support for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pact now being negotiated, showcased to be the free trade deal that will encompass more than a third of the world’s GDP.
The pact includes 16 countries, including China, India, Japan and South Korea, but not the United States. Li said China would work to “expedite” RCEP negotiations this week.
Also on Monday, the ten-member ASEAN group reached their first ever deal on e-commerce aimed at helping boost cross-border transactions in the region.


Time to tear down Mideast trade barriers, Davos panel hears

Updated 24 min 16 sec ago
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Time to tear down Mideast trade barriers, Davos panel hears

  • Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri, Saudi minister of economy and planning, said a move to ease movement of traffic across the border could be followed elsewhere
  • Majid Al Futtaim CEO Alain Bejjani: Now there’s this seriousness between Saudi Arabia and the UAE, I hope it gets to frictionless trade

DAVOS: Amid global trade wars and the rise of protectionism, Middle East economic and business leaders on Tuesday issued a clarion call for the exact opposite: To ease customs restrictions in the region.
A panel at Davos heard how an agreement between Saudi Arabia and the UAE to boost cooperation — including the reduction of obstacles to trade across the shared border — could be a blueprint for the wider region.
Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri, Saudi minister of economy and planning, said a move to ease movement of traffic across the border — partly through the use of technology — could be followed elsewhere. “We want to establish a reference for others to follow,” he said.
Alain Bejjani, CEO of retail and leisure group Majid Al Futtaim, said “frictionless trade” would give the region a boost.
“Now there’s this seriousness between Saudi Arabia and the UAE, I hope it gets to frictionless trade,” he told Arab News on the sidelines of the Davos forum.
Bejjani declined to say whether that would involve a customs union, a common market or a common currency. Given the imposition of trade tariffs between the US and China, and the rise of Brexit, globalization — something espoused by many Davos delegates — is seen as on the wane.
But Bejjani said breaking down barriers in the Middle East could help it better compete with Western Europe and the US.
“For the past almost century now… we’ve been ingeniously working on making sure we put barriers across the Arab world. The reality is we have a market that’s as big as most of the largest markets in the world… if we’re smart enough to work together,” he told the Davos panel.
Khalid Al-Rumaihi, chief executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board, agreed that Saudi-UAE cooperation was “a great template” for others to follow.
Aside from “opening up” Middle East markets, Al-Rumaihi said harmonizing regulation in the region would also be beneficial to businesses and entrepreneurs.
“If the rules are changing in each country, if they’re not harmonized, it’s very difficult… for an entrepreneur (to understand) the regulatory environment. So they don’t scale very quickly, and that’s something we need to solve,” he said. Talk of freer trade within the Middle East is especially relevant when it comes to the Palestinian territories, which are subject to Israeli occupation and blockade.
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said freer movement and a reduction of duties would help the economy grow.
“We need to see our products being waived (of) customs,” he said. “We need mobility — we’re under occupation.”