Restructuring of International Trade and Investment System: What Role for China?

Event: Regional and International Affairs

On May 8th to 9th 2014, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies (SIIS) and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation Shanghai jointly organized a workshop on the topic of Restructuring of International Trade and Investment System: What Role for China?

Photo: Opening remarks given by Catrina Schläger (Resident Director, FES Shanghai Office).

The global trade and investment system is experiencing a new round of restructuring. Internationally, WTO reached a partial but hard-won agreement in Bali at the end of 2013, while more uncertainties remain about its future direction. Should it pragmatically go a plurilateral way, and if so, how to proceed? While WTO is showing its fatigue, the so-called mega-regionalization has been unfolding, exemplified by the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), driven by the traditional trade powers, U.S. and EU. Meanwhile the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is the Asian-Pacific version initiated by ASEAN. These regional actions are aimed at not only promoting regional economic integration, but also as a measure to advance and clarify international trade and investment rules.

China has become the largest trading power in 2013 and the 3rd outward FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) provider in 2012. However, it is still more a follower rather than a leader in the global trade and investment rule making process. This is set to change. China‘s position in the new round of restructuring of global trade and investment system will have significant impacts on both, the world and China itself. Furthermore one has to deal with the questions of how China can play a constructive role in this rule making process on the global, regional and bilateral level.

Therefore, the workshop formed a platform to discuss the global trade- and investment system and in particular focused on China’s evolving position and role in the elaborative international structure. The conference included discussions on the WTO to mega-regionalization process, China’s unilateral initiatives and the Shanghai Free Trade Pilot Zone, in consequence. Furthermore the workshop arranged two specific sessions on investment issues during the discussions, including the case studies on the ongoing Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) negotiations between China and the EU and the U.S. respectively.

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