Xi makes fresh promises to open China’s economy, boost imports

Xi makes fresh promises to open China’s economy, boost imports

In October, Ma told World Trade Organization delegates that the Geneva-based body has come under threat from Trump's efforts to recast the global trading system in a way that he says will be more balanced toward the U.S. The American president has this year targeted allies and adversaries alike, threatening tariffs on all of China's exports, proposing levies on European car-makers and saying he could leave the WTO, which he has described as "unfair".

In a veiled reference to the tariffs Trump has leveled against his country's exports, Xi told the inaugural China International Import Expo on Monday that "the practices of beggar-thy-neighbor" would lead to global stagnation.

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

Xi said China would lower tariffs, take more action to punish violations of intellectual property rights, and work to boost domestic consumption of imported goods.

"Trade war is the most stupid thing in this world", Ma said at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai.

The expo has been met with some foreign scepticism, with Washington snubbing the gathering by not sending high-level representation, instead calling on China to change "unfair" trade practises.

The speech came weeks before Xi is due to meet Trump in Buenos Aires after the G20 leaders summit, which may offer a chance for Beijing and Washington to narrow their differences.

Nations "should not just point fingers at others to gloss over their own problems", he said, likening the USA attitude to "the law of the jungle". But no major new initiatives were proposed, although Xi ran through a list of policies and measures China is taking to encourage imports, such as cutting taxes on imports and opening up more sectors to foreign companies, products and services.

"They should not hold a flashlight in hand, doing nothing but highlighting the weaknesses of others and not their own", he added. However, the comments were short on specifics.

Jarrett noted that Xi promised better protection of foreign patents and other intellectual property, which companies complain are copied or improperly used by Chinese rivals.

Prime ministers and other senior officials of governments including Egypt, Hungary, Pakistan and Vietnam also were attending the fair.

He also said China would further develop Hainan as a free-trade port, prompting shares of companies based in the southern province to jump.

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.

"Foreign ownership caps in education and health care, where China has a huge supply gap, will be relaxed", Xi said.

Xi has said the import expo proves China is willing to reduce its foreign trade surpluses.

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.

But the lure of China´s market remains strong and the United States contingent includes even tech giants such as Facebook, which is blocked in China, and Google, which pulled out years ago over censorship and cyber-attacks.

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.