China National Convention Center in Beijing. /CFP
China National Convention Center in Beijing. /CFP
Editor’s Note: Ye Lin is a law professor and director of the Legal Research Center of Business Environment at the Renmin University of China. The article reflects the author’s opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.
Data from the Ministry of Commerce showed that China’s trade in services continued to grow rapidly in 2021, with the total annual import and export of services reaching 5.29 trillion yuan, up 16.1 percent year on year. Among them, the export of services totaled 2.54 trillion yuan, up 31.4 percent; imports hit 2.75 trillion yuan, an increase of 4.8 percent. However, China’s total trade in services only accounts for about 7 percent of the global total of 11.61 trillion US dollars (about 75 trillion Yuan). This shows that China’s service trade has huge room for development.
Trade in services is an important part of international trade and a key field of international economic and trade cooperation. The China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) being held in Beijing is an important exhibition in the field of services trade. It comprehensively covers the 12 categories of trade in services listed by the World Trade Organization (WTO), and focuses on nine topics: telecommunications, computer and information services, financial services, cultural and tourism services, education services, sports services, supply chain and business services, engineering consulting and construction services, health and sanitation services, and environmental services.
This demonstrates China’s determination to continuously develop trade in services, and also shows the key areas for the development of trade in services. For example, this year’s CIFTIS highlights “green innovation” in the theme of “service cooperation to promote development and green innovation to meet the future.” It also features special forums on peak carbon dioxide emissions, carbon neutrality and environmental governance, which conveys an obvious signal of China’s promotion of green industry and environmental protection. The conference includes a forum on supply chains and business services, which also reflects its focus on global trade in services. In this regard, CIFTIS is an important window to reflect market demand, look into global development and observe the business environment.
Global trade in services has developed unevenly. For example, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism sectors of numerous countries have been hit hard. Cultural tourism and education services have been severely affected, but digital services have developed rapidly. In this regard, China has some special advantages. On the one hand, global digital trade is in its infancy, and the gap between the major economies is not obvious. There is huge development space for China’s digital trade. On the other hand, China’s big population, large market scale and developed online transactions provide a huge database for digital trade and congenital conditions for data services.
The development of the service trade depends on a relatively loose system and policy environment. Strict supervision has raised the entry threshold, increased the costs and reduced the efficiency of the service trade, which is contrary to the policy objective of optimizing the business environment. In the indicators for Doing Business (DB) set by the World Bank, access to credit, cross-border trade, commercial dispute resolution and other services are included in the business environment. The World Bank’s 2022 Business Enabling Environment indicators also highlight the role of regulatory systems in doing business. This means that deregulation is an important part of improving the business environment and promoting the development of trade in services.
In order to improve the international competitiveness of China’s service trade, it is necessary to adhere to the open policy. In the congratulatory letter to this session of the conference, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed that “China will unswervingly expand its opening-up, establish and improve the negative list management system for cross-border trade in services, promote the construction of pilot open platforms for innovative development of trade in services, continue to relax market access for the service industry, and take the initiative to expand the import of high-quality services.”
From a global perspective, the rule system of commodity trade is relatively stable, and the international rules of service trade are being developed and optimized. In promoting the development of the service trade, China should continue to adhere to the two-way opening policy, adapt to the emerging standards and order of international service trade, and participate in the rule-making of international service trade. That’s to help Chinese enterprises actively and effectively participate in the international competition of service trade.
Protectionism is on the rise internationally, and some countries impose unreasonable restrictions and controls on trade in services. With the development of information technology, international communications and exchange and international cooperation in the field of trade in services still have great potential. China will also provide its own solutions for the development of international trade in services and the promotion of global economic recovery.