SINGAPORE – Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday called for global efforts to uphold free trade and multilateralism so as to realize world peace and global common prosperity.
Li made the call in his speech titled "Pursuing Open and Integrated Development for Shared Prosperity" at the 44th Singapore Lecture.
It is the international order based on multilateralism and free trade that has helped humanity maintain lasting peace and reduce poverty since the end of WWII more than 70 years ago, he pointed out.
Without free trade, it means no trade, then how can there be just and fair trade? Meanwhile, just and fair trade is an important basis for the continued development of free trade.
Li Keqiang,. Chinese Premier
Amid international vicissitudes, the international community needs to firmly follow multilateralism, adhere to mutual respect and equality between big and small countries and insist on solving problems through dialogue and managing disputes via negotiation, said Li.
It is free trade that promotes the process of globalization, he said, noting that free trade has not only underpinned the growth and prosperity of Singapore, but also constitutes the necessary condition for forging ahead China's opening-up.
Though some say that problems occurred in the process of globalization and free trade rules need adjustment, China believes that generally speaking, globalization adapts to the direction of human development, the premier said.
Stressing that China has always advocated just and fair trade, Li said free trade is the prerequisite of all trade.
"Without free trade, it means no trade, then how can there be just and fair trade? Meanwhile, just and fair trade is an important basis for the continued development of free trade," Li said.
He called for reform measures to address problems that occurred in the process of globalization, but warned that those measures should not run counter to the basic rules of multilateralism and free trade, especially should not discard the current regime and start all over again.
"China is willing to discuss with all sides ways to improve free trade and promote the development of globalization," said Li.
"We also stand ready to talk about just and fair trade so as to make free trade more robust and develop at a higher level," he added.
Li arrived Monday for his first official visit to the city state, where he is expected to build momentum for free trade and regional cooperation.
During the visit, Li is also going to attend the 21st China-ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) (10+1) leaders' meeting, the 21st ASEAN-China, Japan and South Korea (10+3) leaders' meeting and the 13th East Asia Summit.
Li will also meet with ASEAN leaders on the progress of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a trade deal that, once agreed upon, could cover half the world's population.
CHINA A DEVELOPING COUNTRY
China remains a developing country by any standard, and the Chinese people obtained their due wealth by hard work, said Li.
Though China is the second largest economy in the world, its per capita GDP only accounts for about 80 percent of the world's average, Li noted, stressing that such a case has never occurred before worldwide.
"China is a country with a large population. We need to address our own development issues as well as face global challenges and assume international responsibilities," Li said, adding that it is important to look at China objectively.
China has made remarkable achievements in its 40 years of reform and opening up, Li said, stressing that China's development is achieved by the hard work of its people throughout the years, rather than by taking advantage of others.
S. CHINA SEA NEGOTIATION
China hopes its talks with Southeast Asian nations on a code of conduct (COC) in the South China Sea will bear fruit in three years, said Premier Li.
Joint efforts of China and the ASEAN have stabilized the South China Sea, he said, adding that both sides should seize the opportunity to push for substantial progress on COC talks.
The COC talks, launched by China and ASEAN countries, are a mechanism of equal participants, independent of external interference, he added.
Li also highlighted the significance of the recent adoption of a single draft negotiating text of the COC. “The single draft negotiating text is not merely a technical term, but an indication that China and ASEAN have reached consensus on ensuring peace and stability, freedom of overflight and navigation in the South China Sea.”
On the negotiations on RCEP, Premier Li said China expects to finalize negotiations on the RCEP in 2019.
"We are going to announce the completion of the substantial negotiations on RCEP and the entry into the final stage at this meeting, and China hopes to conclude the RCEP negotiations next year," Li said, referring to the second RCEP leaders' meeting scheduled for Wednesday.
China, the ASEAN and other parties have spent six years negotiating an economic integration agreement, which covers about half of the world's population, he said.
In the context of rising protectionism and setbacks for free trade, advancing the WTO rules-based RCEP would not only benefit people in the region, but also send the world a strong signal of upholding and promoting free trade, Li said.
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