Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is calling on the European Union to start working on creating a free trade agreement with China, amid growing investment interest and good economic cooperation.
Speaking at the "Sixty-Minute Briefing" event of the European Policy Center in Brussels on Monday, Wang Yi said that multilateralism and free trade are important for global development and peace.
"China and the EU should be partners for free trade. Apart from a high-quality investment agreement, we should work for an early start of negotiations on a free trade agreement, or at least the launch of feasibility studies on that front," the Chinese foreign minister said, as quoted by the Chinese Foreign Ministry in a Tuesday release.
Wang Yi pointed out that trade between China and the EU is growing and more European companies are expressing interest in investing in China.
"Even with rising trade friction between China and the US and mounting downward pressure on the global economy, economic and trade cooperation between China and the EU has bucked the trend and kept growing. In the first 11 months of this year, trade between China and the EU was estimated to grow by 7.7 per cent from last year. From January to July, EU investment in China was up by 18.3 per cent year on year. Sixty percent of EU companies regard China as a leading destination of investment," Wang Yi said.
He characterized 2019 as productive for China-EU relations and said that China regards Europe as an important cooperation partner and a priority on its diplomatic agenda.
"China and the EU should advocate and promote multilateralism and inject more positive energy to this world; facing the headwinds of protectionism, China and the EU should uphold free trade and make the world a more open place," Wang Yi said.
Multilateral Trade and the World Trade Organization
Wang Yi has also stressed the importance of multilateralism and free trade, saying that multilateral trading should be based on rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
"… China believes that multilateralism should have win-win cooperation as the goal, equity and justice as the tenet, and be action-oriented. It should aim to firmly uphold the international system centered on the United Nations, the international order based on international law, and the multilateral trading system underpinned by the WTO," Wang Yi said at the "Sixty-Minute Briefing" event of the European Policy Center on Monday, as quoted by the Chinese Foreign Ministry in a Tuesday release.
According to Wang Yi, the most recent trade deal signed by China and the United States became possible because of mutual respect. The Chinese foreign minister said that trade ties with the United States should follow WTO and market rules.
China has been experiencing major trade tensions with the United States, with US President Donald Trump having repeatedly pointed to what he calls unfair economic conditions and noncompetitive behavior from China.
Earlier this month, the United States and China announced that they had worked out a Phase One trade deal that is expected to be signed in early January, 2020. As part of the deal, the sides agreed not to introduce new duties that were planned to go into effect on 15 December.
White House Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters on Monday that the Phase One deal with China would boost American exports by $200 billion over the next two years.
Earlier this month, the appeal mechanism of the WTO was suspended, as the United States was blocking the appointment of new judges, necessary for the functioning of the appellate body, which has the final say on trade disputes, including between China and the United States.