Two free trade agreements (FTAs) that came into force Sunday illustrate China's commitment to opening up, which is good news for the global economy.
Both FTAs, one between China and the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the other between China and Australia, set examples for cooperation between major economies during a time of downturn, which usually gives rise to protectionism.
Under the deals, China will gradually abolish tariffs on 91 percent of ROK goods and 97 percent of Australian products. After a grace period, the ROK will eliminate tariffs on 92 percent of Chinese products, while Australia will eventually impose zero tariffs on all Chinese goods.
Among all the FTAs China has signed with other nations, the deal with the ROK involves the biggest trade volume, and the one with Australia brings trade and investment thresholds the lowest.
The pacts show the right solution to the sagging world economy: freer trade and open minds.
Their benefits are substantial. Australian farm produce exports to China will have their average tariff level reduced to 0.51 percent from 12.94 percent after the grace period. China and the ROK will have a 12-trillion-U.S.-dollar low-tariff market between the them.
The two agreements are just part of a broader picture: China now has 14 FTAs involving 22 countries and regions. It is negotiating for several more.
FTAs will become a significant platform for China to translate its economic potential into a source of growth for foreign countries. Chinese leaders expect the country to import goods worth 10 trillion U.S. dollars and invest 500 billion U.S. dollars overseas in the coming five years.
The pacts are also in line with China's call to foster a global free trade network.
Last week, the State Council, China's cabinet, said the country wants to raise the proportion of trade with FTA partners in total foreign trade to that of most developed countries.
In the longer term, it said, China aims to expand the free trade network to cover all neighboring countries and regions, countries within the Belt and Road network, most emerging economies, big developing countries, major regional economic groups, and parts of the developed world.
With the ROK and Australia being two economic heavyweights in the Asia-Pacific region, the new FTAs are big strides forward.
It's worth noting that bilateral FTAs do not necessarily run contrary to multilateral trade deals. Instead, the fruits they bear will provide grounds for accelerating talks on a region-wide free trade pact.
China has long supported establishing a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) and amalgamating various regional trade arrangements to avoid fragmentation.
China has a lot to gain by opening up more to the outside world. The introduction of foreign products and services will stimulate domestic innovation and upgrading, while an expanded overseas market can offer more opportunities to competitive firms from China.
Cooperation can only help, not hinder, our efforts to ride out hard times. With all the benefits to China and the rest of the world, the newly implemented FTAs and the message they send deserve applause.