No other country could better understand the preciousness of Free Trade than Sri Lanka

By Cheng Xueyuan,

Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Sri Lanka


The year 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up and also the 17th anniversary of China’ accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In 2001, China acceded to the WTO, which marked a new historic stage of reform and opening-up and was a milestone in China’s integration into economic globalization.

Over the past 17 years, China has been developing rapidly and making all-round progress. Now it has grown into the world’s second largest economy and largest trading country. On June 28, the State Council Information Office of China issued the white paper of China and World Trade Organization, which gives a full account of China’s fulfillment of its WTO commitments, explains China’s principles, stances, policies, and propositions regarding the multilateral trading system, and describes China’s vision and actions in advancing higher-level reform and opening-up.Accession to the WTO has boosted China’s development and benefited the rest of the world.

It is the valuable experience of China’s development to create momentum for reform and development through opening up. At the historic starting point of a new era, China’s door of opening-up will not be closed and will only open even wider.

China’s development has benefited the whole world, including Sri Lanka

Since 2002, China’s contribution to global economic growth has approached 30% on average. The Chinese economy has become a major engine for global economic recovery and growth. China has quickened its pace in modernization, created enormous opportunities for consumption and investment, and generated more jobs for the world.China’s imports increase by an annual average of 13.5%, making it the world’s second largest importer and a major trade partner of more than 120 countries and regions. China’s exports have provided high-quality products with reasonable price for businesses and people around the world. China has become the world’s second largest service importer, making significant contributions to stimulating consumption, creating jobs and boosting economic growth in the exporting countries. Taking tourism services as an example, China has been the world’s largest source of outbound tourists for many years in a row.

When it comes to Sri Lanka, the value of bilateral trade has reached 4.4 billion US dollars in 2017. A large quantity of high-quality and inexpensive products made in China such as household appliances, electronic products, furniture and toys have been exported to Sri Lanka, making continuous contributions to improving the living standard of Sri Lankan people. 268,952 Chinese tourists came to Sri Lanka in 2017, which is a continuation of the two countries’ thousand years of connections through Buddhism. This has made concrete contributions to the development of hotels, catering, tourism services of the local area, and various industries in food, clothing, accommodation, transportation, featured products of the neighboring regions. These data and facts tell us that if China becomes better, Sri Lanka and the rest of the world will also become better.

The multilateral trading system is a precious treasure that the whole world should cherish. China has played an irreplaceable role in upholding the multilateral trading system. 

Trade has existed since the origin of the human being. At the very beginning, the purpose of trade was to mutually exchange needed goods. It is trade that has helped mankind cross one threshold and another to realize exchanges between different civilizations and promote the development and progress of human civilization. Since modern times, all countries in the world, no matter big or small and no matter with strong or moderate production capacity, have given full play to their comparative advantages and gained economic benefits from international trade, through taking advantage of their different natural endowments and the socialized and international division of labor. The generalized benefits of free trade have been proved by numerous economic studies and it is a well-accepted principle by the whole world.

Since its accession to the WTO, China has comprehensively fulfilled its commitments, aligned its policies with international trade rules, and contributed significantly to the upholding and development of multilateral trading system. China has substantively reduced import tariffs. By 2010, China had fulfilled all of its tariff reduction commitments, reducing the average tariff level from 15.3% in 2001 to 9.8%. China has substantially opening up trade in services. China committed to opening up 100 sub-sectors under 9 sectors of trade in services when acceding to the WTO, and by 2007, China had honored all of its commitments. China attaches great importance to the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR). We have built an IPR legal system that conforms to WTO rules and suits the national conditions of China and strengthened law enforcement on IPR protection, which has scored outstanding achievements. China upholds the multilateral trading system and promotes free trade arrangements. By May 2018, China had signed 16 free trade agreements (FTA) with 24 countries and regions.In those free trade agreements, basically 90% of imported products enjoy duty free treatment.

China’s door of opening-up will only open even wider in the new era

Unilateralism and protectionism run counter to the fundamental principles of the WTO.Unilateralism goes against the law of the market and international rules, causes injury to others but ends up defeating oneself.Pursuing protectionism is like locking oneself in a dark room. While wind and rain may be kept outside, that dark room will also block light and air. Next, China will steadfastly promote its continuous opening-up according to the principles set at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China and under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.

China’s development is beneficial to the international community and China stands ready to provide more public goods to the world. The Belt and Road Initiative was an important initiative proposed by China to uphold and grow an open world economy. Since 2013 when it was proposed, more than 80 countries and international organizations have signed cooperation agreements with China. From 2013 to 2017, the total value of China’s trade with other Belt and Road countries exceeded 5 trillion USD, and total investment by Chinese enterprises in these countries exceeded 70 billion USD. By the end of 2017, Chinese enterprises had set up 75 overseas economic and trade cooperation zones in relevant countries, contributed tax revenues worth more than 1.6 billion USD to the host countries and created 220,000 local jobs.

Within three years starting from 2018, China will provide 60 billion RMB worth of aid to the developing countries and international organizations participating in the Belt and Road Initiative, with a view to developing more projects to improve people’s livelihood. In November 2018, we will hold the first China International Import Expo(CIIE).This is the world’s first expo themed on import and is a major policy measure of China to further open its market to the world. Exhibitors from Sri Lanka, together with those from other countries, will present the charm of Sri Lanka to the huge consumption market of China at the expo. In the coming 15 years, China is expected to import 24 trillion USD worth of goods. An open China in the new era will bring more dynamism to world economic growth and share with the whole world the dividends of its reform and opening-up.

Located at the center of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka has acted as a regional trade center since ancient times. Sri Lanka has not only played its role as a “central node” in promoting global trade development, but also benefited a lot from the free trading system. No other country could better understand the importance of upholding the free trading system than Sri Lanka.

As an ancient Chinese saying goes, “When everybody adds fuel, the flames rise high”. Now it is the time for all men of insight around the world to join hands to add fuel to the open and equal free trading system and make the flames of human reason and wisdom burn brightly. Let us work hand-in-hand to uphold the open and inclusive world trading system. Sri Lanka will certainly gain faster and better development from the free and open world trading system.


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