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Commerce minister: China committed to free trade
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14:24, February 26, 2009

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China remains fully committed to free trade and believes it is the right way to help the world out of the financial crisis, Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming said Wednesday.

"No country can escape the global financial crisis and economic downturn. Only through opening markets can we solve the problem," Chen told Xinhua in an interview Wednesday evening as he arrived in Zurich at the head of a large business delegation.

Switzerland is the second stop on the delegation's four-nation tour to buy goods and technology.

Chen said the group's trip is a concrete move taken by China to fight protectionism.

"It shows China's willingness to overcome the current economic difficulties together with others," he said.

Chen pointed out that Europe and the United States had spent more than 1.5 trillion U.S. dollars on their economic stimulus packages. However, in an apparent reference to the United States, he said if every country limits spending to within its borders and requires purchase of its own products, it will harm chances of a global recovery.

The U.S. government recently passed a 787-billion-U.S. dollar stimulus package containing a "buy American" provision, which stipulates that public works and building projects funded by the stimulus use only U.S.-made materials.

The provision has raised concerns about protectionism and been met with strong criticism from foreign governments and business groups.

In contrast to the "buy American" provision, China is adopting an open trade approach by sending companies to "buy European" goods.

Earlier Wednesday, the delegation wrapped up their first stop in Germany, signing 37 procurement deals worth about 11 billion euros (14 billion U.S. dollars) with local firms.

Chen said the expected purchase deals with Switzerland would be modest compared with Germany due to the gap in the two countries' economic scales. He put the price tag at 300 million U.S. dollars.

"Swiss companies have an advantage in precision machinery, pharmaceuticals and chemical industry," Chen said, adding that such products would be essential to facilitate the adjustment of China's economic structure and growth mode.

The Chinese delegation is scheduled to meet Swiss companies on Thursday morning and fly to the Spanish capital of Madrid later in the day. Their last stop will be Britain.

Chen is expected to meet Swiss Economy Minister Doris Leuthard to prepare for negotiations on a free trade deal between the two countries agreed upon during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's recent visit to Switzerland.

In view of the WTO headquarters being located in the Swiss city of Geneva, Chen also expressed readiness to increase multilateral trade.

Chen said it was a pity that the Doha Round of global trade talks remained deadlocked after seven years of negotiations.

A key effort to revive the round at the end of last July failed again due to differences between the United States and India on a special protection mechanism for agricultural products of developing countries.

"The world multilateral trading system should carry on," Chen said. "A fair and transparent multilateral trading system can boost confidence and is conducive to world economic recovery."

He said China is playing a bigger role in the Doha Round of talks and will throw its full weight behind WTO Director General Pascal Lamy.

Lamy is slated to pay a visit to China in April, with the Doha Round high on the agenda, according to Chen.

For Chen, the buying mission is merely a beginning. He said there would be more Chinese delegations coming to Europe with the aim to promote bilateral trade and investment.

"China cannot save the world, but China will show that it will be able to keep its economy in shape, and that will be a big contribution to the world," said Chen. "China will stand against protectionism and remain committed to open market in trade and investment."

Source: Xinhua

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