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06 November 2018, 03:44 | Devin Moran
China's Xi promises market opening as import fair begins
He opened the first annual China International Import Expo in Shanghai, attended by many world leaders and major firms, with a speech acknowledging anger overseas over trade policies in the world's second-largest economy.
The European Union, which shares United States complaints of Chinese trade policy although it is against the Trump administration's hardball tactics of applying tariffs, has called for Beijing to open its market. The company hosts major brands like Nike and Urban Outfitters on sites such as Tmall Global that showcase worldwide merchandise for local consumers.
With an area of 30,000 square meters, the Country Pavillon for Trade and Investment is an important part of CIIE, held at the National Exhibition and Convention Center (Shanghai) from November 5 to 10, where 82 countries and three worldwide organizations set up 71 booths. Participating countries have put on display a variety of products from agricultural products to consumer goods.
The European Union, which shares USA concerns over China's trade practices if not Trump's tariff strategy to address them, on Thursday called on China to take concrete steps to further open its market to foreign firms and provide a level playing field, adding that it would not sign up to any political statement at the forum. Trade discussions were "moving along nicely", Trump said, claiming "it's going to work out good".
Microsoft founder Bill Gates will join a business forum, but the touchy optics of attending a China import expo amid trade tensions means few big-name American CEOs are confirmed.
Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged on Monday to boost the nation's total imports to more than US$40 trillion in the next 15 years, while warning that United States protectionism has "dealt a blow" to the global free trade system amid a mounting trade war with Washington. "All countries should be committed to opening-up and oppose protectionism and unilateralism in a clear-cut stand", he added.
Xi promised that China would import as much as $30 trillion in goods and $10 trillion in services during the next 15 years.
He added that China would endeavour to "foster a world-class business environment" and that China´s doors will open "ever wider".
Beijing has touted the first annual China International Import Expo as a sign of its willingness to open its markets despite mounting criticism to the contrary and the worsening trade war with Washington, which has seen both sides impose punitive tariffson hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of goods.
Assessing concerns of global firms about the threat of intellectual property right violations taking place in China, Xi said that China will safeguard the IPR rights of foreign companies and "firmly punish behavior that encroaches on the lawful rights and interests of foreign companies".
Xi acknowledged some Chinese industries face "growing risks" but said efforts to shore up growth are already paying off.
China's economy grew 6.5% year on year in the July-September period, the weakest expansion since the first quarter of 2009, when the global economy was in the depths of the financial crisis.
"A storm can overturn a small pond, but not a sea", he said.
Foreign businesses in China reacted to Xi's speech with caution, saying they are more interested in seeing the government act than continue to feed them with promises.
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