Liu Ying: Further opening-up to protect free trade

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Liu Ying: Further opening-up to protect free trade

2019-12-19

By Liu Ying    Source: China Daily    Published: 2019-12-17


This year is crucial to China's higher-level opening-up, symbolized among other things by the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative. That China, amid rising trade protectionism, hosted the second China International Import Expo which attracted more than 180 countries, regions and international organizations, and over 3,800 global enterprises shows it is not only committed to further opening up its economy but also increasing imports to meet Chinese people's ever-growing need for a better life and boost global trade.


It also reflects China's shift from being the "world's factory" to becoming the "world's market", which is an important milestone in China's high-quality economic development and higher-level opening-up.


At the second CIIE in Shanghai last month, President Xi Jinping called on all countries to prioritize the common good of humanity and outlined China's future opening-up policies, emphasizing that, "We must all put the common good of humanity first rather than place one's own interest above the common interest of all." Which makes China's trade and policy clear: the country supports the multilateral trading system, and promotes trade liberalization despite rising protectionism in some economies, in order to build an open world economy.


Among the other measures for expanding opening-up, China has released the plan to build the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, while the State Council, China's Cabinet, issued a guideline in August supporting Shenzhen in building a demonstration pilot zone for socialism with Chinese characteristics with the aim of deepening reform and expanding opening-up, which in turn will facilitate the development of the Greater Bay Area.


Moreover, the annual Central Economic Work Conference last week reviewed China's economic work in 2019 and outlined key tasks for 2020. While stating that the new concepts of innovative, coordinated, green, open and inclusive development should be unswervingly put into practice to promote high-quality economic development, the CEWC stressed that, to expand opening-up, market access should be loosened, and pre-establishment national treatment and the negative list fully implemented so as to protect the legitimate interests of foreign companies in China, especially their intellectual property rights.


The conference also called for greater efforts to increase imports and exports, push for a more diversified export market, and cut institutional costs for imports with the aim of promoting free trade and safeguarding the multilateral trading system.


In fact, China has loosened market access to a large extent and has been implementing pre-establishment national treatment and the negative list.


All these policies and measures provide institutional support to China's high-quality economic development.


In terms of further opening-up at the regional level, China has established several pilot free trade zones in Heilongjiang, Hebei, Jiangsu and Yunnan provinces, and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, and the new Lingang special area in the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone with the aim of boosting free and fair trade as part of higher-level opening-up.


China has also launched 12 new opening-up measures in the financial sector this year. It has not only made market access to the banking, securities and insurance sectors easier for foreign investors, but also reduced the requirements for foreign financial companies in terms of asset size, year of registration in China and shareholding ratio. As a result, the world's top three credit card companies and credit rating firms have entered the Chinese market.


Also, the launch of the science and technology innovation board, the pilot program for registration-based IPO system and Shanghai-London Stock Connect has further enhanced the internationalization of China's capital market, which apart from expanding opening-up have also propelled supply-side structural reform in China's financial sector.


Besides, the Foreign Investment Law, which comes into force on Jan 1, is aimed at attracting more foreign investment and better protecting foreign investors' interests, and therefore demonstrates China's commitment to higher-level, all-round opening-up.


China's higher-level opening up is reflected in the drastic improvement in the domestic business environment, too. While last year China ranked 46th among 190 economies in the World Bank's Doing Business Report in terms of business environment, this year it has jumped to the 31st position. And in the Government Work Report issued in March, China announced it would reduce taxes and fees worth 2 trillion yuan ($284.3 billion), and the Ministry of Commerce vowed to launch a series of measures to promote cross-border trade.


As such, these measures and policies will benefit not only China but also neighboring countries as well as the economies along the Belt and Road routes, which in turn will promote China's higher-level, all-round opening-up.


And the fact that, at a time when protectionism is rising in many economies, China is promoting higher-level, all-round opening-up by boosting infrastructure construction, improving connectivity and strengthening policy and legal support demonstrates that it is honoring its promise of promoting domestic reform as well as helping build an open world economy.


The author is a research fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.