China plans to seal free trade agreements with 40 percent of the countries and regions along the Belt and Road Initiative in 2017, officials said on Tuesday.
The nation had already established FTAs or is in talks with 25 countries and regions along the route of the initiative by the end of this year, and it will accelerate the pace of FTA negotiations with Sri Lanka, Maldives and Pakistan next year.
"We have also started FTA feasibility studies with countries including Nepal, Bangladesh and Mauritius this year," said Zhang Shaogang, director-general of the department of international trade and economic affairs at the Ministry of Commerce.
The infrastructure, service and trade network proposed in 2013 envisions a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, covering about 4.4 billion people in more than 60 countries and regions in Asia, Europe and Africa.
Zhang said the ministry has made progress in eight FTA talks, as well as launching feasibility studies and negotiations with another eight countries and regions in 2016.
In the meantime, China also launched feasibility studies on FTAs with Canada, Papua New Guinea and Fiji, as well as starting research on upgrading existing free trade deals with New Zealand, Chile and Peru.
Zhang said the talks of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a regional free trade pact between 16 economies including Australia, India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, will also speed up.
Due to the rise of trade protectionism, China suffered 117 trade remedy investigations with a total of $13.98 billion involved between January and Dec 21, increases of 34.5 percent and 71.5 percent, respectively, on a year-on-year basis, said Wang Hejun, head of the trade remedy and investigation bureau of the Ministry of Commerce.
"China therefore can raise its investment and trade activities with emerging economies, in particular those from the Belt and Road Initiative, to diversify its export channels and avoid potential risks," said Zhou Liujun, director-general of the ministry's department of outward investment and economic cooperation.
Chinese companies signed a total of $84.39 billion of new contracts in sectors such as power, transportation, housing and communication industries in 61 countries and regions along these two trading routes between January and November this year, up 30.7 percent from the same period a year earlier.
Agreements under negotiations
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership
-- Gulf Cooperation Council
-- Japan-South Korea
-- Sri Lanka
-- Pakistan (second phase)