Xi Jinping pledges to 'open door wide' to global trade

Daniel Fowler
November 5, 2018

While Trump has floated the possibility of a deal when he meets Xi in the coming weeks, the two sides remain far apart on resolving key U.S. complaints.

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.

In apparent reference to the Trump administration's protectionist moves, Xi said "economic globalization is facing setbacks, multilateralism and the free trade system is under attack, factors of instability and uncertainty are numerous, and risks and obstacles are increasing".

While Uhuru said the trade expo provides a platform for more win-win partnerships, his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jingping said his country would take proactive measures to correct the trade imbalance between Kenya and China.

The results - largely a bellwether of Mr Trump's policy success amongst voters - could impact Washington's approach toward China at a time when relations between the world's two largest economies have dipped to an all-time low.

"All countries should strive to improve their business environment and solve their own problems", Xi said.

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

The EU called last week for Xi to present concrete steps to opening its market.

But trading partners and foreign enterprises say he 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".

Presidents and prime ministers from almost 20 countries are attending the trade fair, although no leaders from Western countries are attending.

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Foreign businesses complain about a range of preferential policies that benefit local firms, requirements that foreign companies form joint ventures with Chinese partners, forced technology transfers, rampant intellectual property violations and restrictive red tape.

The Nov 5-10 China International Import Expo (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.

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.

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

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.

Both are seen as eyeing new ways into China.

US President Donald Trump has applied pressure on China to open its market, level the playing field, close a trade gap and protect US intellectual property.

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.

Trump, however, has in recent days raised hopes of a resolution to the trade spat, saying he was optimistic a deal could be reached soon.

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