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Defenders of rules and order
Wu Ken

China and Germany can work together to promote fruitful discussions at the G20 Osaka Summit

Unilateralism, protectionism and bullying have been on the rise in recent years, which has severely weakened the authority and effectiveness of the multilateral trading system and undermined economic globalization.

As the largest economy and trading country in Asia and Europe respectively, China and Germany are guardians of and contributors to the current international order. The two countries need to shoulder their responsibilities and stand together to uphold multilateralism, free trade and win-win cooperation and oppose unilateralism, protectionism and zero-sum games.

With this in mind, China and Germany should strengthen their cooperation in four aspects during the G20 Osaka Summit.

First, the two countries need to jointly defend multilateralism and the rules-based multilateral trading system. China and Germany have reached important consensus on this. In March, Chinese President Xi Jinping and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met in Paris and reaffirmed that the two countries would cooperate under the G20 framework to improve global governance and maintain multilateralism.

Although differences and even frictions are inevitable in international trade and economic exchanges, protectionism is never an appropriate solution, it will only intensify disputes, damage the multilateral trading system, break the global value chains and hamper global economic development. Instead, the only right option is to adhere to equal negotiations based on mutual respect to resolve differences. China and Germany need to seize the opportunity of the upcoming G20 summit to further highlight the benefits of multilateralism and the multilateral trading system.

Second, the two countries need to guide discussions on reform of the World Trade Organization. China has recently submitted a proposal on WTO reform with specific items, agreeing that necessary reforms can help address crises, enhance the authority and effectiveness of the trade body and strengthen its role in global economic governance. Meanwhile, the WTO still needs to adhere to non-discrimination and openness, safeguard the interests of developing countries and follow decision-making mechanisms based on unanimity.

The G20 summit will allow participating countries to exchange views and build consensus on much-needed WTO reforms. China and Germany have cooperated closely in the China-EU working group on WTO reform and jointly submitted a proposal on reform of the dispute settlement procedure to resolve the pressing issue with the Appellate Body that troubles the WTO.During the G20 summit in Osaka, the two countries can further strengthen coordination, consolidate and expand their consensus, effectively handle differences and seek the largest common ground on WTO reform issues.

Third, the two countries need to jointly promote high-quality infrastructure construction and interconnectivity. Assuming the rotating presidency of the G20 in 2016, China introduced the concept of high-quality infrastructure into the G20 agenda. The theme of the 2017 G20 Hamburg Summit was "Shaping an Interconnected World," which was in line with China's commitment to building high-quality infrastructure and promoting interconnectivity as demonstrated by the Belt and Road Initiative. Over the past few years, Germany has actively participated in the initiative and become the largest non-regional shareholder of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Half of the China-Europe trains transport goods between China and Germany, and German enterprises such as Siemens and Voith have participated in infrastructure construction in third-party countries.

At the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, attended by Germany's Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier, important consensus was reached on the need to build high-quality infrastructure that is practical, affordable, inclusive, accessible and widely beneficial to contribute to the sustainable development of participating countries and the industrialization of developing countries.

Fourth, the two countries should jointly promote the development of the digital economy and the application of new technologies. Both enjoy advantages in new technologies, and they have seen fruitful cooperation in fields such as intelligent manufacturing and autonomous driving. Cooperation on groundbreaking technologies and emerging industries will become the new engine of Sino-German cooperation. At present, discussions on technology application under the G20 framework need to focus on creating a fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for the development and application of new technologies and oppose any bullying or suppression of technology companies. The construction of the 5G network in Germany is about to start, which is crucial for the country to accelerate the development of the digital economy and promote the Industry 4.0 revolution. China expects Germany to open its market, treat China's 5G network equipment suppliers equally and provide a fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment. The two countries also need to explore countermeasures against risks and challenges brought by the application of new technologies and support the formulation of plans on new technology cooperation during the summit to better boost global economic growth and benefit people of all countries.

China and Germany also share a broad consensus on other G20 issues such as coping with climate change, tackling marine pollution and reducing poverty. Over 70 cooperation and dialogue mechanisms between the two countries have ensured close mutual communication on major issues such as these.

Amid complicated global changes and rising instability and uncertainties, China and Germany as all-round strategic partners are expected to pursue common development to benefit the people of both countries, contribute to global stability through the G20 and maintain multilateralism and international order based on international laws.

(China Daily)

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