Interview: Free trade "absolutely crucial" for innovation, long-term growth: experts

Source: Xinhua| 2017-06-27 15:37:22|Editor: Zhou Xin
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By Levi J Parsons

SYDNEY, June 27 (Xinhua) -- Free trade is "absolutely critical" for innovation and long-term growth as it allows countries to concentrate on their best skills, best products and to move their goods appropriately across borders, experts said on Tuesday.

Chancellor of the University of Los Angeles Gene D. Block told Xinhua on the sidelines of a meeting of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities in Sydney that "Globalization in education is so important to all of our students."

"Because new challenges are arising and it's more difficult for students to move freely between countries due to new difficulties obtaining visas."

"I think this is presenting some challenges to international education," the chancellor said.

Block said more open access to markets is a must for all sectors, not just education.

He believed that free trade agreements as a way to ensure a supportive environment for innovation and prosperity.

Associate Professor at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Elizabeth Thurbon echoed these sentiments, saying China's ongoing commitment to free trade has been particularly effective in facilitating better outcomes for new technology creators.

"We know that free trade, well managed, has delivered enormous benefits for many countries both developed and developing."

"One of the ways in which it does so is to give an opportunity to have access to markets, but also the ability to absorb foreign technologies and to begin thinking about becoming an innovator."

"China has been particularly effective at that and that is just one way free trade can support innovation," Thurbon said.

But the author and international relations expert warned that not all free trade agreements are made equal.

"We've seen historically with the failed Trans Pacific Partnership. The agreement wasn't really about freer trade," Thurbon said.

"They were about entrenching monopolies through ever increasing intellectual property rights or giving foreign firms the rights to sue national governments or receive interventions that might help them adapt to social and economic challenges."

"I think Australia and China can assist by refocusing our attention on trade deals that are actually about freer trade, that are excluding the more trade distorting elements and in that way both help to play a very significant role in promoting regional prosperity."

The most vital aspect of any trade agreement is that both nations produce mutual economic benefits, and that's why Thurbon believed the Belt and Road Initiative will be such a win-win outcome for partnering countries.

"China is going so far as to assist a number of countries accessing the funds they require to help advance infrastructure. This particular aspect is really positive," Thurbon said.

"I think one of the strongest parts of the Belt and Road Initiative is that is so clearly focusing on infrastructure development, which we know is so critical in promoting long term growth.