Official: China should move toward more free trade agreements

Updated: 2013-04-18 05:31

By Bao Chang (China Daily)

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Alliances with major economies will prevent marginalization from TPP

China should accelerate its moves toward establishing bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements with other major economies, in order to ensure the Trans-Pacific Partnership does not marginalize China in global trade, said a former senior government official.

"China should be vigilant that some FTAs are now set to exclude it from making trade regulations and weaken China's power of discourse in international trade," Wei Jianguo, vice-chairman and secretary-general of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, told China Daily.

The US-led TPP includes more negotiations and new regulations on government purchasing and international labor force standard to which China was not referred. It will weaken China's influence and participation in global trade, said Wei, a former vice-minister of commerce.

The 16th round of TPP discussions ended in Singapore last month, with officials suggesting solid progress had been made.

The TPP - which covers 11 nations including the United States, Australia, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore - has invited Japan to join, a move regarded by some as a measure by the US to counter China's rising economic influence in the Asia-Pacific region.

"China should also accelerate its negotiating process on setting up FTAs with other countries while more and more bilateral and regional FTAs emerge," said Wei.

China and Iceland signed an FTA on Monday in Beijing, marking a milestone in bilateral trade ties and an icebreaking agreement between China and a European country.

China has concluded FTAs with 10 other economies, including Peru, Costa Rica, Chile and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

FTA negotiations were also held with countries such as Australia, Switzerland, Japan and South Korea. The first round of discussions about a triple FTA among China, Japan and South Korea ended in March.

"Compared with the TPP, the China-Japan-South Korea FTA is more feasible and can be achieved earlier because it's easier for the three countries to communicate with each other and reach a consensus on crucial issues including tariffs for sensitive industries," said a Japanese official in Beijing, who declined to be named.

Japan announced its entry into TPP talks in March. Meanwhile, the country is also accelerating negotiations to establish an FTA with ASEAN.

South Korea is also pushing forward a bilateral FTA with China and signed one with the US last year.

The US has FTAs with 20 countries and is taking further step to establish regional FTAs such as the TPP. This implies that the US intends to dominate global trade and regain its influence, said Wei.