Xi pledges wider market access, free-trade deals

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Nov 05 2019 11:40 AM

Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen on a screen at the media center as he delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the second China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, China. Yilei Sun, Reuters

SHANGHAI, China - President Xi Jinping on Tuesday pledged to further open China's economy, declaring the world must "tear down walls" as he opened an annual trade fair in Shanghai.

Xi addressed an audience including French President Emmanuel Macron at the import exhibition, staged annually by China to show its willingness to free up its vast domestic markets in the face of criticism that they are too cosseted by Beijing.

The world community must "continue to knock down walls instead of building walls, resolutely oppose protectionism and unilateralism, (and) continuously reduce trade barriers," Xi said.

Xi's speech was light on specifics, however, and thus unlikely to mollify foreign critics who accuse China of a range of protectionist measures and failing to deliver on reform promises.

With China and the US working to lock in a partial trade deal announced last month, Xi steered clear of the tariff war in his remarks.

It was a stark contrast to his keynote last year at the height of the confrontation, when Xi took a swipe at the Trump administration, decrying "protectionism", "isolationism" and "the law of the jungle", while not specifically naming the United States.

Xi also said he hoped a China-backed proposed regional trade deal could be signed soon, a day after it was dealt a blow by India's withdrawal.

At a summit in Bangkok, Delhi expressed concerns that its economy would be flooded by cheap Made-in-China goods as a result of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

RCEP was meant to account for 30 percent of global gross domestic product and loop in half of the world's people.

"I hope the agreement will be signed and entered into force at an early date," Xi said in Shanghai.

He also said China would be "happy" to reach free-trade agreements with other countries, adding officials would speed up negotiations on an investment accord with the European Union as well as a pact with Japan and South Korea.