By Leslie A. Pappas
March 5 — China will open up further to the outside world in 2014 and encourage more cross-border trade and investment as a way to foster continued economic growth, government leaders announced at the opening of the country's annual legislative session March 5.
“Reform is the top priority for the government's work this year,” said China's Premier Li Keqiang in an opening speech to the second session of the 12th National People's Congress in Beijing. China will open wider to the outside world in all areas, he said.
“We will foster a new open-economy system and advance a new round of opening up to embrace the international market,” Li said. “This will lead to deeper reform and structural adjustment and enable us to enhance China's ability to compete internationally.”
China will target 7.5 percent GDP growth and expects total trade to increase by 7.5 percent, Li said in his Government Work Report on March 5.
In a separate report on China's economic and social development released March 5, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China's economic planning agency, said the country was under pressure to boost trade.
“Competition in the international market is escalating, investment and trade protectionism is clearly reasserting itself, and China's export situation remains grave,” the report said. “We are thus under considerable pressure to consolidate and expand external demand.”
Li said the government would implement policies to encourage imports and would work to import more products in short supply in China.
The government will also promote more exports in certain areas.
“We will encourage the export of complete sets of large equipment included telecommunications equipment, railways equipment, and power stations, and enhance the international reputation of Chinese equipment,” Li said.
The NDRC echoed this in its report, saying, “We will consolidate our traditional advantages in export; get the export of large equipment sets to stimulate the export of interrelated industries and services; and give exports greater support in credit insurance and financing.”
The NDRC also pledged to “increase the import of technologies, resources, and products in short supply domestically” and “energetically promote trade in services.”
Relaxing controls over market access for foreign investment could be part of the upcoming changes, the government said.
China will “open up more service sectors to foreign capital” and “level the playing field for domestic and foreign enterprises to compete on fair terms so as to ensure that China remains a top choice for foreign investment,” Li said in his speech.
The government will also continue to develop the Shanghai Free Trade Zone as a model that “can be copied and extended,” Li said, adding that “we will launch a number of new trials” in the coming year.
The NDRC said that it would “move faster to open banking, education, culture, medical care and other services to foreign investment in an orderly way.”
Non-financial foreign direct investment is expected to reach $121.7 billion in 2014, up 3.5 percent, according to the NDRC.
Supporting Chinese enterprises going global will also be a priority, according to the NDRC report.
“We will improve policies supporting outbound investment, reform and simplify foreign exchange controls, efficiently utilize foreign exchange reserves to support outbound investment, deepen outbound cooperation and investment in energy and resources and agricultural development, and guide advantageous industries to do business globally,” the NDRC report said.
China's non-financial outbound direct investment will amount to US$99.2 billion in 2014, an increase of 10 percent, according to the NDRC.
China also will further engage in “bilateral, multilateral and regional opening up and cooperation” in a coordinated effort to improve trade, Li said.
“We will actively participate in developing high-standard free trade areas; continue negotiations on investment agreements with the United States and the European Union, and accelerate free trade area negotiations with the Republic of Korea, Australia, and the Gulf Cooperation Council,” Li said.
He added that the government would “strive to make progress in negotiations on agreements” concerning trade in services, government procurement and information technology, and would “speed up negotiations on new areas” such as environmental protection and e-commerce.
To contact the reporter on this story: Leslie A. Pappas in Beijing at firstname.lastname@example.org
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