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International economic and trade cooperation has long sought methods to make trade smoother. During the recent Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, more than a hundred foreign guests gathered in Beijing to discuss designs for better trade facilitation and cooperation at a session with the theme “promoting unimpeded trade.” Against a backdrop of sluggish world economic growth, rising anti-globalization sentiment and protectionism, common sense dictates that countries seeking growth look to facilitate greater trade through cooperative platforms such as the Belt and Road Initiative.
Achievements in Cooperation
As Vision and Actions on Jointly Building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road notes, the phrase “unimpeded trade” refers to efforts to “improve investment and trade facilitation by removing investment and trade barriers to create a sound business environment in a region and for all participating countries.” The document calls for efforts to “discuss free trade areas with countries and regions along the Belt and Road to create potential for expanded cooperation.”
Since the Belt and Road Initiative was proposed in 2013, China has worked to build economic and trade cooperation platforms with countries along the Belt and Road to promote “unimpeded trade” and has achieved impressive results. Statistics show that China’s trade volume with countries along the Belt and Road totaled 6.3 trillion yuan in 2016, accounting for a quarter of its total foreign trade. The value of its overseas project contracts in countries along the Belt and Road increased by 36 percent to US$126 billion, and China’s direct investments in those countries accounted for 8.5 percent of its total outbound investments. China has reached free trade area (FTA) agreements with greater numbers of countries and regions. After sealing a deal with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to upgrade their free trade agreement, China consecutively signed FTA agreements with more than 20 countries and regions including South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Negotiations with other countries are ongoing. Chinese companies have established 56 economic and trade cooperation zones in over 20 countries along the Belt and Road, helping those countries create nearly US$1.1 billion in tax revenues and some 180,000 jobs. All of these achievements can be attributed to efforts to promote unimpeded trade.