China’s Xi warns on protectionism, calls for unimpeded vaccine trade
By Andrew Galbraith
SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping called on Thursday for smooth global trade in vaccines and other medical supplies, saying that unilateralism and protectionism are rising across the world and globalisation is facing headwinds.
Speaking in a televised address at the opening of the China International Import Expo, Xi touted China’s contributions to the global fight against COVID-19 and its efforts to open up its economy, even as it maintains a zero-tolerance approach to virus control that has put strict limits on travel into and out of the country.
China is on high alert at its international ports of entry to reduce the risk of COVID-19 cases entering from abroad, and it has stepped up restrictions within the country amid a growing outbreak less than 100 days before the Beijing Winter Olympics.
The National Immigration Administration (NIA) said on Thursday it would continue to guide citizens not to go abroad for non-urgent and non-essential reasons.
“Since the outbreak of coronavirus, China has exported about 350 billion masks, more than 4 billion pieces of protective clothing, more than 6 billion test kits, and more than 1.6 billion doses of vaccines, actively promoted international cooperation in fighting the epidemic, and supported exemptions for intellectual property rights on vaccines for developing countries,” Xi said.
He said that China supports the fair distribution and unimpeded trade of key medical supplies, such as vaccines.
Xi said the global multilateral trading regime faces challenges, and promised that China would expand imports and pursue balanced development of trade, without providing a specific target.
He said that the country would also expand the opening up of its telecom and health services industries in an orderly manner, and would release lists of investment restrictions to guide foreign entities to enter the market.
China will actively participate in tackling climate change, and maintain global food and energy security, Xi said.
The Chinese president did not attend the start of the major U.N. meeting on climate change in Scotland this week, delivering a written statement to the opening “high-level segment for heads of state and government” on Monday in which he offered no additional pledges, while urging countries to keep their promises and “strengthen mutual trust and cooperation”.
(Corrects typographical error in word vaccines in first paragraph)
(Reporting by Andrew Galbraith and Winni Zhou; Editing by Toby Chopra and Frances Kerry)