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Defending multilateralism in challenging era

Xinhua,November 28, 2019 Adjust font size:

BEIJING, Nov. 25 (Xinhua) -- This past summer, heat waves swept across the European continent, hitting Britain, France, Belgium and other countries with astonishingly high temperatures like never before.

The extreme weather is not accidental. At the beginning of this year, a blast of cold air froze the Midwest and Northeast regions of the United States, with temperatures plunging to record-breaking lows.

Climate change has sent a clear message: the world is facing unprecedentedly severe challenges, and joint actions are needed.


Apart from climate change, terrorism, pandemic diseases, nuclear security and many other issues are posing unprecedented threats to the global community.

Whether it's the rising sea waters that submerged more than 80 percent of Venice, or the Ebola epidemic which has claimed lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, no single country can stand alone when faced with these challenges.

Under such circumstances, the international community should have become much closer, but unfortunately, the rise of trade protectionism, economic nationalism, and populism have sewn the seeds of division across the world in past years.

Withdrawing from the Paris climate deal, the Iranian nuclear deal and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the current U.S. government has chosen to turn its back on multilateralism, which set back progress made in solving these problems.

Furthermore, as Washington has been wielding its tariff stick and provoking trade tensions with countries worldwide, the rules-based multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organization (WTO) at its center is under serious assaults.

In October, WTO economists sharply downgraded their forecasts for trade growth in 2019 to 1.2 percent from the 2.6 percent forecast in April, citing trade tensions and a slowing global economy. The projected growth in 2020 is 2.7 percent, down from 3 percent.

Roberto Azevedo, director-general of the WTO, told Xinhua that unilateral actions cannot be "the end of the game" of trade tensions, as solutions and agreements are the ultimate objectives.

"The longer we take to get there, the more the global economies would suffer," he warned. "There are no winners in this scenario."


Multilateralism is the cornerstone of the post-World War II international order, and the United Nations stands as the largest international multilateral arena.

On several occasions, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the international community to actively defend multilateralism and join forces to cope with the difficulties and challenges confronting humanity.

"Safeguarding multilateralism has become an urgent must," said United Nations General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces in an interview with Xinhua. "We need the strong voices and leaders that promote multilateralism as the only space, way and tool to address global challenges."

At the UN General Assembly debate this year, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong firmly defended multilateralism, saying a multilateral approach is not an option but a necessity in today's interconnected world.

The open and integrated international order that emerged after the Cold War has benefited all countries. A rules-based system imposes responsibilities on all countries and creates a stable environment for all, he said.

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said that "joining forces" should be the fairly simple way to respond adequately to emerging threats.

"It is upon us to address the greatest challenges of the globalized 21st century: climate change, sustainable development, migration, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and new technologies," said the Croatian president.


By championing multilateralism, China is a long-standing builder of world peace, a contributor to global development and a defender of the international order.

China has dispatched over 40,000 personnel to 24 UN peacekeeping operations since 1990, with 13 Chinese peacekeepers sacrificing their lives in the frontline of operations. More than 2,500 Chinese peacekeepers are currently on duty in seven mission areas and the UN headquarters. The United Nations has spoken highly of Chinese peacekeepers as "a key factor" in peacekeeping.

China has in recent years taken a more proactive part in international affairs and made greater contributions to world peace and development, said a document titled "China and the United Nations" published for the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

"China has lived up to its responsibilities as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a major economy of the world," it said.

This year at the 11th BRICS summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping once again called on the BRICS countries -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- to undertake their due obligations in championing and practicing multilateralism.

"It is important that we uphold the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and the UN-centered international system, oppose hegemonism and power politics, and take a constructive part in settling geopolitical flash points," he said.

The BRICS countries should stand firm against protectionism, uphold the WTO-centered multilateral trading system, and increase the voice and influence of emerging markets and developing countries in international affairs, Xi said.

Ligia Costa, full professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Sao Paulo told Xinhua, "I do agree with President Xi's vision of embracing multilateralism.

"Supporting multilateralism and upholding the multilateral trading system is the best option available for the safety of a sustainable economic system which is necessary for the current generation and the next generations to come," she added.

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