Spain’s trade chief: China’s commitment to open its economy is ‘unquestionable’

Attendees to China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai participate in a demonstration of European gastronomy at the EU stand. [Jorge Valero]

Spain and China celebrate this year the 45th anniversary of their bilateral relations. In order to continue strengthening this bond, Chinese President Xi Jinping will travel to Madrid in the coming weeks. “We are already seeing that China is opening its markets,”  Spain’s Trade chief Xiana Margarida Méndez told EURACTIV.com.

Xiana Margarida Méndez is Spain’s Secretary of State for Trade.

Méndez spoke with Euractiv’s Jorge Valero during the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai.

Does Spain expect concrete results from this expo? Or do you interpret the event rather as a public relations effort from the Chinese government?

We should distinguish two elements. Certainly, there is a message of the Chinese government about economic openness and defence of free trade. President Xi was very clear when he sent this message during the opening ceremony [on Monday 5 November]. He also proposed different measures to open the Chinese economy to foreign investment. This is a process that cannot be done overnight. Obviously, it will take time for China, and we need to understand that. 

What about Spain’s participation in the expo?

Our participation in the CIIE is not due to a diplomatic effort or public relations gesture. An international import fair is meaningful especially when it is organised by China.

We are already seeing that Beijing is opening its markets. In the case of Spain, exports to China increased threefold over the past eight years. This is a fact. This process of opening up will take whatever time it may need, but it is happening. Therefore we believe there is a concrete positive impact due to our participation in this expo.

China is our main trade partner in Asia. We want to position Spanish products as high quality goods, especially consumer goods and agri-food products. Numerous Chinese companies could visit Spanish pavilions and other stands set up by Spanish companies, and we hope that agreements could be reached.

It is not the first time that the Chinese leadership promised to open up its economy. Does Spain already perceive China’s shift toward a consumer-based economy and openness?

It does already exist. We notice that in our own trade relations. Nevertheless, these transitions would take time for any country. For them, it is also difficult because China is an enormous economy. I do believe that this transition is happening. It will take whatever time is needed. But the commitment is unquestionable. 

Could the victory of the Democrats for the House of Representatives in the US’s mid-term elections alleviate the trade tensions?

All measures that could contribute to reduce the trade tensions would be very positive for Spain. It is almost impossible to predict whether the results of the US elections would help in this regard. Many trade decisions were taken by the US Executive. Therefore, not all depend on the results of these elections.

Right now, we are optimistic because the trade tensions have decreased. We have to find common issues to work with the US in defending multilateralism and fair and transparent rules, as President XI mentioned during the opening of the CIIE.

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