China’s State Council on Thursday released guidelines on accelerating implementation of its free trade agreement (FTA) strategy, with an aim to gradually foster a global free trade network.
The guidelines specified that the near-term goal of China’s FTA strategy is to promote negotiations with neighboring countries and liberalize trade in existing free trade areas.
By doing that, China wants to raise the ratio of trade with FTA partners in entire foreign trade to that of most developed countries.
In the longer term, China aims to expand the network to cover all neighboring countries and regions, countries within the Belt and Road network, most emerging economies, big developing countries, major regional economic groups, and parts of the developed world.
A Ministry of Commerce official described the acceleration strategy as a “necessary choice” for China to adapt to global economic trends, deepen reforms and foster a more open economic framework.
Specifically, the guidelines encourage the opening up of the service sector including finance, education, culture, and medical care, and relaxing investment access rules in child and elderly care, architectural design, accounting and auditing, logistics and e-commerce.
The guidelines also introduce support mechanisms for FTA construction. The third-party evaluation system will be improved for decision-making and risk control while laws on foreign investment will be updated, the State Council promised.
China has 14 FTAs involving 22 countries and regions.
The country is negotiating for several more FTAs.