Xi pledges to open China’s markets wider to an impatient world

Frederick Owens
November 6, 2018

President Xi Jinping on Monday will open a Shanghai import fair intended as a signal by China that its markets are open despite mounting criticism to the contrary and the worsening trade war with Washington.

China's President Xi Jinping is seen on a big screen in the media centre as he speaks at the opening ceremony of the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai on November 5, 2018.

Ma, who recently took back an earlier pledge to create a million jobs in the United States - blaming the trade war launched by Donald Trump - made the comments in a panel discussion at the massive expo in Shanghai.

Mr 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.

Mr Trump has repeatedly criticised China's trade surplus with the U.S. which he wants to narrow through the imposition of tariffs.

Speaking at the trade expo in Shanghai, Xi pledged to "embrace the world" as China promotes the growing consumer market in the world's second-largest economy.

The event, which has a United Kingdom delegation led by the trade secretary Liam Fox, is aimed at bolstering access to China for foreign firms but has been overshadowed by the trade spat with Donald Trump.

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Of course, there is always a chance for the trade war to end before these tariffs are imposed but judging by the progress-or rather lack thereof-made so far, this is far from certain. Last year, Xi estimated that China would import $24 trillion worth of goods over the coming 15 years.

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. The general tone from Congress is to take a hard line with China, according to Gary Hufbauer of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, who expects tensions with Beijing to heat up in the next few months.

Billionaire Alibaba (BABA.N) co-founder Jack Ma called fighting over trade senseless and decried once again a widening conflict between the US and China.

He said that China's clear focus on importing more beneficiated and industrialized goods and services matches exactly Africa's current internal development and growth trajectories.

While in China, President Uhuru is expected to sign a horticulture trade deal which will allow Kenya to export fresh produce such as avocados, cashew nuts and mangoes to China. "It is important therefore to correct the trade imbalance and enable a fairer share of trade".

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.

"40 years ago China started to build its bridge to the world by opening its economy and kick-starting reforms that have changed the lives and prospects of hundreds of millions of people here but also beyond China".

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