Remarks by Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Opening Ceremony of China-CELAC Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum and China-LAC Business Council Annual Meeting 2018
23 January 2018
Foreign Minister Muñoz,
Entrepreneurs from China and LAC Countries,
Good morning. It is a real pleasure to be here for this exciting gathering of entrepreneurs. On behalf of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, I extend our heartfelt congratulations to you on the opening of the China-CELAC Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum that brings together business leaders of China and LAC countries. As the driving force for innovation and development, entrepreneurs are important participants of China-LAC cooperation. We hope and trust that today’s Forum and Annual Meeting will produce broad consensus.
The second Ministerial Meeting of the China-CELAC Forum was concluded yesterday. Foreign Minister Muñoz just went through its outcomes. Let me echo what he said and further highlight the following:
First, China and CELAC agreed that in a world full of uncertainties, we must send out a clear message from here. We must uphold multilateralism and the free trade regime, oppose protectionism, work for an open world economy and a healthy global governance system, and foster a more open, inclusive and balanced economic globalization that benefits all. As the China-CELAC Forum represents developing countries and emerging markets, such a common stand and unified voice from us is highly necessary and timely. As we speak, in the snow-clad town of Davos on the other side of the globe, this important issue is also at the center of discussion.
Second, China and CELAC agreed to jointly build the Belt and Road. As China and other countries work together on the Belt and Road Initiative, LAC countries cannot be absent and should be a meaningful part of it. The ancient Maritime Silk Road had once connected us across the Pacific Ocean. Now in the 21st century, China stands ready to work with LAC countries to revitalize it. Collaboration in this process will create greater space, market as well as resources and means for the development of LAC countries. During the meeting, the Foreign Ministers issued a special declaration on supporting and participating in the Belt and Road Initiative. It means that with the second Ministerial Meeting, this visionary Initiative put forward by President Xi Jinping has been extended to Latin America and the Caribbean, and become the largest and most welcomed platform for international cooperation spanning all continents and oceans. It is also the most important public goods that China provides to the world.
Third, China and CELAC agreed to accelerate economic diversification. As part of the South-South cooperation by nature, China-LAC cooperation is about mutual support and help. LAC countries hope to change their development model largely underpinned by export of primary products. As a good friend, China fully understands this and is ready to help LAC countries enhance capacity for independent development, implement the strategy of economic diversification, advance industrialization and build competitive pillar industries as soon as possible.
With all its outcomes, the second Ministerial Meeting will add fresh impetus to and open up new prospects for the comprehensive cooperative partnership jointly initiated by President Xi Jinping and LAC leaders. It will also propel China-LAC relations in a positive and significant way.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up. Over the past four decades, guided by the right theories, the Chinese people have blazed a successful development path that suits China’s national conditions and needs and has won extensive support. This is the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. At the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, General Secretary Xi Jinping declared to the world that socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era. This Congress has laid out a clear timetable and roadmap for China’s development between now and the middle of this century, and identified Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era as the guide to action for us to adhere to on a long-term basis. Under the leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping as the core, the 89 million CPC members will stay united and lead the Chinese people in the endeavor to realize the two centenary goals and national rejuvenation.
I assume that you as entrepreneurs follow China’s economy closely. Let me share with you the latest development and progress of the Chinese economy in the new era.
First, China’s development philosophy is undergoing a big change. President Xi Jinping has outlined a vision on innovative, coordinated, green and open development that benefits all. Guided by the new vision, we no longer take GDP growth as the sole focus, but have put more emphasis on the quality and efficiency of development. What the people expect their government to deliver on the most are jobs, higher income and cleaner environment in terms of air, water and soil. A China pursuing green, low-carbon and sustainable development serves the well-being of its own people and that of this planet we all call home.
Second, China’s economic structure is undergoing a major shift. Among the forces driving growth, the tertiary industry now accounts for over half of GDP in added value, outstripping both the primary and secondary industries. The economic structure is upgrading with consumption contributing over 65% to GDP growth last year. This figure is quickly approaching that in developed countries. This indicates China is on track to become the biggest market in the world. A recent report by a reputable international agency predicted that in 2018 China will, for the first time, overtake the United States in the scale of domestic consumption. This means that beyond 2018, China, not the United States, will be the world’s biggest market. Regardless of the accuracy of this forecast, it is to be well expected that the Chinese market, which potentially is three to four times that of the US, will continue the current trend of fast expansion. This will be the natural result of the law of the market, which also dictates that market shares are not to be gained with strong-arm tactics but only with hard work.
Over time, the structure of China’s trade with the US and other countries will see a fundamental change. If one visits the US, especially the various states, he or she will see that what the governors and business people there care about the most is not what China can sell to them but what they can sell to China. They are keen to gain wider access to the Chinese market. Such an interest will evolve into an unstoppable momentum. In the future, many other countries and the US may well sell more to China than they buy from us. This may build into a big shift in China’s trade structure whereby there will be ever more cases of China running a deficit with its trading partners. When that happens, we will not threaten anyone with something like the Section 301 investigation, nor politicize trade issues. We will continue to follow a positive approach to the workings of new market dynamics and strive to make the pie bigger with greater progress in our business ties with other countries.
Third, China will further open up to the world. President Xi has reaffirmed on many occasions China’s commitment to opening its door wider. We are set to introduce the management model based on pre-establishment national treatment and a negative list nationwide. This will create a more enabling environment for foreign investors to access the Chinese market. The Chinese government has decided to host an international import expo annually starting from this year, making China the only major economy in the world to do so. This shows our readiness to further open our market and share its opportunities with all other countries.
Chile has made clear its readiness to participate in the expo. That will see more quality Chilean products, including fresh fruits and wine, make their way into the Chinese market more quickly. Chile is already China’s largest source of fresh fruits imports and the second largest source of wine imports, there is still great potential to tap as both countries are committed to opening-up and sensitive to other’s needs. We appreciate Chile’s innovative spirit. Chilean President and Foreign Minister have put forward the ideas of a “digital Silk Road” and an “air Silk Road”, which are geared to transcend the geographical distance across the vast Pacific Ocean and bind China, Chile and other LAC countries in the pursuit for shared development and prosperity.
What I have just said can all be found in the Report of the 19th Party Congress. General Secretary Xi Jinping stated clearly in the Report that China’s economy has been transitioning from a phase of rapid growth to a stage of high-quality development, with a modernized economy being a strategic goal. Going forward, we will deepen the supply-side structural reform, make China a country of innovators, improve the socialist market economy, make new ground in pursuing opening up on all fronts, promote high-level liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment, and significantly ease market access. These important messages speak volume to the broad space and enormous opportunities for further cooperation between China and countries across the world.
The Report of the 19th Party Congress is not just a guide to action for the CPC. It is also the most authoritative textbook to get to know and get closer to China. Read through it and you will find it inspirational while also having a lot of fun.