SINGAPORE — Premier Li Keqiang on Nov 13 called for global efforts to uphold free trade and multilateralism so as to realize world peace and global common prosperity.
Premier Li made the remarks in a 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 said.
Amid international vicissitudes, the international community needs to firmly follow multilateralism, adhere to principles of mutual respect and equality between big and small countries and insist on solving problems through dialogue and managing disputes via negotiations, said the Premier.
It is free trade that promotes the process of globalization, Premier Li said, noting that free trade has underpinned the growth and prosperity of Singapore, and also constitutes the necessary condition for forging ahead with China’s opening-up.
Though some say that problems occurred in the process of globalization and free trade rules need adjustments, China believes that generally speaking, globalization has been adapting to the direction of human development, the Premier said.
Stressing that China has always advocated just and fair trade, Premier Li said free trade is the prerequisite for 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,” Premier Li said.
He called for reform measures to address problems that occurred in the process of globalization, adding that those measures should not run counter to the basic rules of multilateralism and free trade and should not, in particular, 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 Premier 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.
During his speech, the Premier said that China expects to finalize negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in 2019.
The RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the six Asia-Pacific states with which ASEAN has free trade agreements — Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
The RCEP, once agreed upon, could cover nearly a half of the world’s population and a third of the world’s trade, Premier Li noted, adding that the agreement, based on the rules of the World Trade Organization, will benefit the economic integration among regional countries.
Focusing on mutual benefit and flexibility, China will continue the RCEP negotiations with all parties. China hopes to work together with all parties to conclude the negotiations next year to reach a comprehensive, modern, high-level and mutually beneficial agreement, Premier Li said.
During Premier Li’s first official visit to Singapore, he is also scheduled to attend a series of leaders’ meetings on East Asian cooperation to further promote China-ASEAN relations.
China hopes to complete talks on the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea within three years, clinching a final deal that will keep enduring peace in the region, Premier Li said in his speech.
Joint efforts of China and ASEAN have stabilized the South China Sea. Both sides should seize the opportunity to push for substantial progress on the COC talks, Premier Li said.
The COC talks between China and ASEAN countries are a mechanism of equal participants, independent of external interference, he added.
Premier 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,” he said.
Reaching agreement on the COC will not only be beneficial to China and ASEAN countries but also conducive to free trade, which is in the interest of all sides, Premier Li said.
At the Singapore Lecture, the Premier also stressed that China’s development is achieved by the hard work of its people over the 40 years of reform and opening up, rather than by taking advantage of others.
Premier Li reiterated that China will open its door to the world even wider in the future. “We welcome Singaporean and ASEAN enterprises to seize the opportunity and increase investment in China.”
The Premier also visited a biopharmaceutical company in Singapore on Nov 13. As he learned that the company is willing to cooperate with China to build clinical laboratories and serve patients around the world, Premier Li pointed out that such cooperation can ease the pain of patients and relieve the burden of their families, as well as open up space for the company’s research and development results.
The two sides can also discuss the possibilities of multi-party cooperation and combination of multiple therapies so as to contribute to human health, he added.