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Experts hail China as champion of free trade

By Cecily Liu in Hamburg, Germany | China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-10 07:12
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G20 leaders agree on 'reciprocal and mutually advantageous trade'

China's leadership in championing global free trade has helped global leaders reach wider consensus on building a win-win trade framework and fighting protectionism, which was expressed in the outcome document of G20 summit in Hamburg on Saturday, said international experts.

They also said that the outcomes of the summit clearly highlighted the continuation from last year's Hangzhou communique, especially on the issues of economic growth, financial regulation, strengthening financial architecture, and promoting trade and investment.

Amid rising protectionism and an inward-looking tendency in some countries, the leaders agreed on building "reciprocal and mutually advantageous trade and investment frameworks" in their declaration, released after two days of tough talks among the G20 leaders including President Xi Jinping, US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who chaired the summit.

"President Xi has many supporters for international trade and open economy, which held Trump from the temptation of protectionist actions," said John Kirton, a professor at the University of Toronto who is also co-director of the G20 Research Group.

Shi Shiwei, director of the research center for Europe at the Beijing-based University of International Business and Economics, added: "The benefits of free trade, including employment, connectivity and growth are also consistent with the Belt and Road initiative."

Discussions on promoting international trade and investment and the building of a prosperous global economy took center stage at this year's summit. The Hamburg summit's emphasis on global connectivity is also a continuation from the focus on inclusive growth, the theme of last year's G20 summit in Hangzhou.

These objectives are closely in line with globalization, which President Xi highlighted in a speech he delivered at the summit on Friday. In his speech, Xi called for an open and inclusive global economy with new sources of growth, accompanied by stronger economic governance.

"The G20 has an important mission, which is to reaffirm the vision of pursuing inclusive growth agreed upon at the Hangzhou Summit last year, and strike a balance between fairness and efficiency, between capital and labor, and between technology and employment," Xi said in his speech.

The concepts of globalization was championed by Xi in his landmark opening address at this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, and again at the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in May.

As a professor who has closely observed the evolution of the G20 platform, Kirton said: "President Xi was called upon to step forward as a global leader and he did."

Kirton, leading a research team at the media center of the G20 Hamburg summit on Friday and Saturday, added that China's leadership at G20 summits has grown over the years.

Despite the encouraging consensus led by China's efforts, the Hamburg declaration's vision to achieve free trade and economic prosperity is shorter and less specific than in Hangzhou and the language is weaker, said Erik Berglof, director of the Institute of Global Affairs at the London School of Economics.

But Berglof also stressed that China has played an important role in ensuring that "it was not further watered down and that not more protectionist elements were entered".

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(China Daily 07/10/2017 page11)

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