Sunday, 18 November, 2018

Xi Pledges to Open Chinese Market

Xi has said the expo proves China is willing to reduce its huge trade surpluses with other countries Xi has said the expo proves China is willing to reduce its huge trade surpluses with other countries More
Jean Garcia | 05 November, 2018, 21:29

With little in the way of fresh policies from Xi on Monday, all eyes now turn to an expected meeting between him and Trump at the G20 summit in Argentina at the end of the month.

In a sign the trade row is starting to bite, export orders to the United States recorded during China's biggest trade show, the Canton Fair in October, dropped 30.3 per cent from a year earlier by value, the fair's organiser China Foreign Trade Center said.

China's President Xi Jinping attends the opening ceremony of the first China International Import Expo, in Shanghai, on November 5, 2018.

The China International Import Expo is part of Beijing's effort to develop trade ties while resisting pressure to roll back industry development plans that Washington, Europe, Japan and other trading partners say violate its market-opening obligations.

Decrying "protectionism", "isolationism" and confrontation, Mr Xi said countries should fix their own houses before targeting others.

"They should not hold a flashlight in hand, doing nothing but highlighting the weaknesses of others and not their own".

Organisers of the expo say more than 3,000 foreign companies from 130 countries, including the U.S., are present.

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.

But critics say Xi is yet to put his money where his mouth is and they are exhausted of empty promises. But that's also "the greatest opportunity for the world".

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But Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta voiced impatience when he told the opening ceremony that his country's growing trade with China was "heavily skewed" in Beijing's favour.

"It is important for us therefore to correct the existing trade imbalance to enable a fair share of the benefits of trade", he said. 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.

China ranks 59th out of the 62 countries evaluated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in terms of openness to foreign direct investment.

But US officials say that amounts to China trying to buy its way out of criticism with a short-term import bump rather than real reform.

"We will continue to broaden market access", he added.

China is under pressure from Trump and elsewhere to wind back its US$423 billion goods trade surplus with the world, and Xi has already pledged that the country will import US$24 trillion dollars of goods from overseas over the next decade and a half.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates will join a business forum on Monday, but the touchy optics of attending the expo amid trade rancour resulted in few big-name American CEOs attending.

About 3,600 companies from more than 170 nations, regions and global groups are taking part in the country's first national-level expo for imports, the Chinese government said.

Mr Trump raised hopes of an agreement on trade last week after he said the sides had a "very good" phone conversation that had a heavy emphasis on trade.

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