Xi Jinping promises to open Chinese markets in trade war joust with Trump

Published On: November 5, 2018 01:00 PM NPT By: Agencies

CHINA, Nov 5: Xi Jinping has promised to lower import tariffs and improve access to the Chinese market in remarks meant to portray his country as a champion of globalisation as it remains locked in a trade war with the US.

“Protectionism and unilateralism is rising. Multilateralism and the free trade system are under threat … China will not close its door to the world and will only become more and more open”, the Chinese president said on Monday at the beginning of a trade fair in Shanghai.

The speech, ahead of a meeting between Xi and US president Donald Trump at the end of the month on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Argentina, signalled little improvement in trade ties before that meeting.

Xi claimed China had entered a “new round of high-level opening up” but did not make any concrete concessions likely to satisfy the White House. The Chinese leader reiterated a pledge to enforce intellectual property rights, as well as open up the country’s educational, cultural and telecommunications sectors, something officials have been promising for years, with little action taken.

“It seems largely more of the same, and unlikely to have any impact on the trade war,” said Roland Rajah, the director of the international economy programme at the Lowy Institute in Sydney.

The US has accused China of unfair trade and business practices, including theft of US intellectual property, and imposed tariffs on $250bn in Chinese goods. China has retaliated with tariffs on $110bn worth of US goods.

Without directly naming the US, Xi issued several veiled jabs at Trump who has blamed China for the loss of jobs in the US and a yawning trade imbalance. Xi said: “All countries should strive to improve their own business environment and solve their own problems.

“As globalisation deepens, the practices of law of jungle and winner take all are a dead end,” he said. “The Chinese economy is a sea, not a pond. Storms can overturn a pond, but never a sea.”

Xi promised to accelerate trade talks with the EU, as well as Japan, and Korea. The president also said a new stock board would be set up in Shanghai for high-tech companies.

Xi’s remarks failed to lift spirits on Asia’s bruised stock markets. The Hang Seng index was off more than 2.5% in Hong Kong while the Shanghai Composite was down 1.5%. The yuan also fell slightly as the dollar firmed ahead of the US midterm elections.

Amid the trade war, Chinese exports to the US have remained resilient, causing its trade surplus with the US to reach a record $31.05bn in August. Xi said China would import $40tn-worth of goods and services in the next 15 years, a figure that does not necessarily signal a meaningful increase given existing trends.

Still, the Chinese economy has revealed signs of strain. China’s economy in the third quarter grew at its weakest pace since the global financial crisis.

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