The website of the “South China Morning Post(SCMP)” of Hong Kong published an article on July 19, saying that a former senior government official and some industry analysts said that the current trade disputes between China and the United States have provided China with an opportunity to promote free trade agreement negotiations with other countries.
Wei Jianguo, former Vice Minister of Commerce said: “China should speed up the free trade agreement negotiations with other countries to ease the pressure from the United States.”
He also said that it is now the best time to hold more talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) to consolidate China’s influence on this multilateral trade arrangement.” The dispute with the United States shows that China needs to conduct high-level free trade negotiations on the goods and services sectors at the same time. Wei Jianguo participated in the FTA negotiations between China and New Zealand, which was finally concluded in 2008.
The article said that at the China-EU summit that ended in Beijing on Monday, the two sides pledged to work together more closely to defend the global trading system, accelerate negotiations on investment agreements and reform the World Trade Organization.
So far, China has already signed 16 free trade agreements involving 24 countries and regions. The free trade agreement with Georgia, which came into effect this year, is the first trade agreement signed between China and the Eurasian country.
The article pointed out that China is currently negotiating with 13 countries including Singapore to upgrade the FTA and to work on possible agreements with 10 other countries including Canada.
Earlier, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said that it hopes to achieve substantial progress in the RCEP negotiation, which began at the end of 2012 and covers China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, India and the 10 ASEAN countries.
According to Feng Xiu, chief economist for Asian Affairs of the Economist Intelligence Unit, it will take several years to reach a consensus on this regional trade agreement because each of the participating countries has its own views and pursuit.
She said that given the recent trade volatility, the countries participating in the trade agreement will have more incentive to reach a consensus.
As mentioned in the article, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Beijing later this year, and trade is expected to become an important topic of his agenda.
Wang Huiyao, chairman of the China and Globalization Think Tank, said that China should seek to expand its trade base to reduce its dependence on the United States. As China’s relations with its neighbors like India and Japan started to improve, China’s trade interaction with these countries will also increase.
He said that trade diversification can help China to reduce its dependence on the United States. China should not put all its eggs in one basket.