China vows to expand global free trade area network

A screen grab shows China's Premier Li Keqiang (left) clapping as Chinese Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan holds up the agreement during the signing ceremony for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade pact at the online Asean summit in Hanoi on Nov 15, 2020.- AFP

BEIJING (Xinhua): China will step up efforts to expand the free trade area network across the world to enlarge its "circle of friends", according to China's Commerce Minister Zhong Shan.

After signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), China will see the China-Cambodia free trade agreement take effect at the earliest and accelerate investment agreement negotiations with Europe, Zhong said in a signed article published Tuesday (Nov 24) in the People's Daily.

Zhong also urged efforts to upgrade the existing trade pacts with Asean, Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand, and facilitate China-Japan-South Korea, China-Gulf Cooperation Council, China-Norway and China-Israel free trade agreement negotiations.

With the RCEP reaching a higher level in fields including customs procedures and trade facilitation, intellectual property protection, e-commerce and trade remedies, China will actively engage in dialogue and communication with more major economies and regional trade mechanisms, he said.

Covering a market of 2.27 billion people and a combined GDP of US$26.2 trillion, the RCEP signatories, which account for about one-third of the world's economy, will become a large integrated market.

Calling the signing of the RCEP a "milestone" in China's pursuit of opening-up, Zhong said the agreement manifests the country's sincerity and commitment to opening its market.

The import and export of goods between China and other RCEP members, exceeding 1.4 trillion U.S. dollars in value annually, will be subject to preferential tariffs following the RCEP implementation.

Meanwhile, China also promised to open more than 120 service sectors, including R&D and elderly care, 22 more than the number of sectors the country had agreed to open upon accession to the World Trade Organization.

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