Praise for WTO at CIIE forum

Opposition to trade protectionism voiced at the Hongqiao International Economic Forum as top names from business and academia discuss the future of world trade.

The Hongqiao International Economic Forum, part of the China International Import Expo, brought together top names in business and academia on Tuesday.

At a session focusing on WTO reform and free trade agreements, panelists talked about where multilateral and regional cooperation mechanisms were heading, the impact on businesses and consumers, and what role WTO reforms and FTAs will play.

Since the financial crisis in 2008, trade, cross-border investment, bank loans and supply chains have all been shrinking or stagnating relative to world GDP, the forum heard. “Slowbalisation,” according to an article in The Economist, is becoming a new model of world economic development, and bilateral and regional linkages between economies will be closer.  

Elyor Ganiev, deputy prime minister of the Republic of Uzbekistan, said Uzbekistan was unequivocally opposed to trade protectionism.

"Trade protectionism is now on the rise, and we have taken a clear stand against it," he said.

Ganiev said the WTO system was not set in stone and still had many problems and contradictions, but there was currently no better system to replace it, so Uzbekistan was still determined to join.

He said accession to the WTO could make Uzbekistan's foreign trade system more optimized, fundamentally liberalize its foreign trade and optimize market openness.

Zhang Yuejiao, former chair and judge of the WTO Appellate Body, said the WTO system should be protected.

"I have been working for the WTO for almost nine years and witnessed the great success and achievement of the Appellate Body. Overall, I would say that it's very successful," Zhang said. "It is the central element for the protection of security and the particular ability of the rule-based multilateral trading system."

Talking about China, Ganiev said: "The CIIE hosted by China is a great platform for multilateral economic and trade cooperation and an example of openness." 

Yang Yuanqing, chairman and CEO of Lenovo, told the forum that China's reform and opening up had undergone three stages.

"For the first stage, we attracted large international manufacturers into China and opened the Chinese markets a bit, and then China turned into the 'world factory'," Yang said. "And as the domestic market developed, the private sector in China grew robustly, beginning to go global. That was the second stage."

"Now we are at the third stage — another stage of bringing in. We are bringing in high-tech, high-quality goods and services, which not only enables customers to meet their demands for a better life, but is also good for China's supply-side structural reform and good for developing a balanced trade worldwide," he said.

Other forum participants included Veronika Nikishina, Eurasian Economic Commission trade minister; James Bacchus, founding judge and former chair of the WTO Appellate Body; Bertrand Austruy, Danone general secretary and executive president; and Andreas Serenus Hoffmann, board vice chairman at Roche Holding Ltd.

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