China's Xi Jinping vows lower tariffs, more imports at trade fair

Cheryl Sanders
November 5, 2018

But in opening a high-profile import expo in Shanghai he provided no response to USA and European complaints about technology policy and curbs on foreign business.

In his keynote address to the inaugural China International Import Expo, an event created by Beijing to signal its intentions to increase its business with the rest of the world, Xi said China's promise to buy more products and services from overseas is "not a temporary arrangement but a long-term consideration" and that the fair would become an annual event. They say regulators are trying to squeeze foreign competitors out of promising fields such as information security.

The United States and China are locked in a battle over trade, with Trump complaining about the trade gap between the two countries and accusing China of stealing intellectual property and imposing policies that make it more hard for US companies to access the Chinese market. No senior US officials were set to attend the Shanghai event.

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde also said there remained "room for even greater reform" in China's market.

"Now that it is the world's second-largest economy, China can afford to open its doors all the way", Mr Jarrett told the AFP news agency. China, the top global exporter, plans to become a major importer.

Xi said China would seek to "step up" moves to stimulate domestic consumption of imports, lower tariffs, ease customs clearance procedures, and implement harsh punishments for intellectual property infringements, among other measures.

Twelve countries were named "guests of honour" at the trade fair, including the UK, Russia, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, Pakistan, South Africa, and Vietnam.

Trump has been insisting that China should cut down United States dollars 375 billion trade deficit by providing more access to the American goods by ensuring IPR protection. While the American President has floated the possibility of a deal when he meets his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in coming weeks, the two countries remain far apart on everything from market access to government support for state-run enterprises. "It's a great opportunity for the world", he said.

Xi acknowledged some Chinese industries face "growing risks" but said efforts to shore up growth are already paying off. "After more than 5,000 years of hardship, China is still here".

This week's event also is part of efforts to develop a trading network centered on China and increase its influence in a Western-dominated global system.

China is hosting the first ever import expo that is attended by participants from over 130 countries among them Kenyan horticultural farmers and traders. But it is "unlikely to have much impact" on its politically sensitive trade balance with the United States.

Beijing and Washington are locked in a bitter trade war.

Europe, Japan and other trading partners have criticized Mr. Trump's tactics but echo USA complaints.

Most reactions urge against taking more Chinese loans.

The US and European Union business lobbies in China, and the French and German ambassadors to Beijing, last week called on China to use the expo to announce concrete change, saying it too often fails to deliver on promises. Although the event is meant to gather foreign companies to woo the Chinese consumer, global brands from Adidas to Walmart, Procter & Gamble to Uniqlo, are sending only country heads - or no senior executives at all.

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