US-China trade war: Xi vows to raise imports amid row with US

By: | Published: November 6, 2018 12:58 AM

Chinese President Xi Jinping promised on Monday to lower tariffs, broaden market access and import more from overseas at the start of a trade expo designed to demonstrate goodwill amid mounting frictions with the United States and others.

Chinese President Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping promised on Monday to lower tariffs, broaden market access and import more from overseas at the start of a trade expo designed to demonstrate goodwill amid mounting frictions with the United States and others. The November 5-10 China International Import Expo, or CIIE, brings thousands of foreign companies together with Chinese buyers in a bid to demonstrate the importing potential of the world’s second-biggest economy.

In a speech that largely echoed previous promises, Xi said China would accelerate opening of the education, telecommunications and cultural sectors, while protecting foreign companies’ interests and punishing violations of intellectual property rights.

He also said he expects China to import $30 trillion worth of goods and $10 trillion worth of services in the next 15 years. Last year, Xi estimated that China would import $24 trillion worth of goods over the coming 15 years.

“CIIE is a major initiative by China to pro-actively open up its market to the world,” Xi said.

US President Donald Trump has railed against China for what he sees as intellectual property theft, entry barriers to US business and a gaping trade deficit.

Foreign business groups, too, have grown weary of Chinese reform promises, and while opposing Trump’s tariffs, have longed warned that China would invite retaliation if it didn’t match the openness of its trading partners.

Xi said the expo showed China’s desire to support global free trade, adding – without mentioning the United States – that countries must oppose protectionism.

He said “multilateralism and the free trade system is under attack, factors of instability and uncertainty are numerous, and risks and obstacles are increasing”.

“With the deepening development today of economic globalisation, ‘the weak falling prey to the strong’ and ‘winner takes all’ are dead-end alleys,” he said.

Louis Kuijs, head of Asia economics at Oxford Economics, said the speech was meaningful, if short on fresh initiatives.

“I don’t think that there were necessarily path-breaking new reforms announced by him today, but I guess I would take this as a confirmation that China is very keen to be seen as continuing to open up further and committing to that stance,” he said.

China imported $1.84 trillion of goods in 2017, up 16 percent, or $255 billion, from a year earlier. Of that total, China imported about $130 billion of goods from the United States. The Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, said in March that China would import $8 trillion of goods in the next five years.

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