China's Xi promises market opening as import fair begins

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In a speech that largely echoed previous promises, Xi said China would accelerate the opening of the education, telecommunications and cultural sectors, while protecting foreign companies' interests and punishing violations of intellectual property rights.

President Xi Jinping has promised to open China's market wider as he opened a trade fair meant to promote the country's image as an importer, but he offered no response to US and European complaints about technology policy and curbs on foreign business. Xi promised to "stimulate the potential to increase imports", including by cutting costs for importers and improving consumer spending power.

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. Xi denounced the "law of the jungle" and "beggar-thy-neighbor" trade policies, the publication reported.

However, the comments were short on specifics. "We're doing very well", Trump said.

A total of 12 countries, namely Indonesia, Vietnam, Pakistan, South Africa, Egypt, Russia, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Germany, Canada, Brazil and Mexico, attended the expo as guest countries of honor.

The expo is "likely not a huge benefit or attraction for US companies", said the chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, William Zarit, in an email. "However, unless some of the protectionist trade barriers now in place are changed, it won't make much difference either way".

Xi said the expo showed China's desire to support global free trade, adding - without mentioning the United States - that countries must oppose protectionism.

Other countries are known to share Mr Trump's frustration in regard to Chinese trade but he has few supporters in his approach.

China has retaliated with $110-billion worth of tariffs on USA goods. But he said little that would indicate a breakthrough is coming. "Interactions between the two sides will also expedite market access issues particularly for pharma, IT & ITES, agro and processed food", said Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) in a statement.

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"Overall, favorable conditions are in place for the long-term, healthy and steady growth of the Chinese economy", Xi said.

China has a massive trade deficit with nearly every country in the world, with the value of its exports far exceeding the value of its imports.

"A storm can overturn a small pond, but not a sea", he said.

Expectations had been low that Xi would announce bold new policies of the kind that many foreign governments and businesses have been seeking from Beijing. "Facing the future, China will always be here".

In an attempt to showcase its commitment to globalisation, willingness to open its market and buy more from other countries, China had chose to hold an import fair in the country.

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.

Xi reportedly did not name Trump or the US, but his target was apparent to all. "We've taken the toughest-ever action to crack down on China's abusive trade practices". The EU called last week for Xi to present concrete steps to opening its market.

Chinese authorities have claimed that over 3,000 companies from over 130 countries are participating in the expo. Kenya and other nations have run into trouble repaying Chinese loans.