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China's Xi Jinping promises lower tariffs, more imports

Reuters  |  SHANGHAI 

By and Winni Zhou

(Reuters) - will lower import tariffs and continue to broaden market access, pledged on Monday, raising his estimate for the country's imports in the coming years at the opening of a symbolic week-long trade expo in

The Nov. 5-10 International Import Expo, or 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 even as remains embroiled in a trade row with the

In a speech that largely echoed previous promises, Xi said China would accelerate opening of the education, and cultural sectors, while protecting foreign companies' interests and enhancing punitive enforcement for infractions of intellectual property rights.

He also said he expects China to import $30 trillion worth of goods and $10 trillion worth of services in the next 15 years. Last year, Xi estimated that China would import $24 trillion worth of goods over the next 15 years.

"CIIE is a major initiative by China to pro-actively open up its market to the world," Xi said.

U.S. has railed against China for what he sees as intellectual property theft, entry barriers to U.S. business and a gaping U.S. trade deficit. No senior U.S. officials were set to attend the event.

Xi said the import expo showed China's desire to support global free trade, adding - without mentioning the - that countries of the world must pursue open policies and oppose protectionism.

He 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".

Louis Kuijs, of economics at Oxford Economics, said the speech was meaningful, if short on fresh initiatives.

"I don't think that there were necessarily path-breaking new reforms announced by him today, but I guess I would take this as a confirmation that China is very keen to be seen as continuing to open up further and committing to that stance," he said.

China imported $1.84 trillion of goods in 2017, up 16 percent, or $255 billion, from a year earlier. Of that total, China imported about $130 billion of goods from the

The Chinese government's top diplomat, Wang Yi, said in March that China would import $8 trillion of goods in the next five years.

Expectations had been low that Xi would announce bold new policies of the kind that many foreign governments and businesses have been seeking from

Instead, people involved in planning meetings have said they were anticipating an event long on symbolism and short on substance meant to signal China's willingness to narrow trade deficits and openness.

The European Union, which shares U.S. 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.

Foreign business groups have grown weary of Chinese reform promises, and while opposing Trump's tariffs, had longed warned that China would invite retaliation if it didn't match the openness of its trading partners.

Trump is expected to meet Xi this month, but has said that if a deal is not made with China, he could impose tariffs on another $267 billion in Chinese imports into the United States.

FOR SHOW

Presidents or prime ministers from 17 countries were set to attend the expo, ranging from and to the Cook Islands, though none from major Western nations. Government ministers from several other countries were also coming.

Swiss did not make the trip to China, despite being announced as among attendees by China's foreign ministry last week. The said in a statement to on Sunday that his visit had never been confirmed, and that would represent

Some Western diplomats and businesses have been quietly critical of the expo, arguing it is window dressing to what they see as Beijing's long-standing trade abuses.

Exhibitors from around 140 countries and regions will be on hand, including 404 from Japan, the most of any country. From the United States, some 136 exhibitors will attend, including Google, Dell Inc, and

A handful of countries are being represented by a single exhibitor selling one product.

For Iraq, it's Iran, saffron. will be marketing its famed blue mountain coffee and is selling bauxite. Tiny São Tome is selling package holidays.

(Reporting by and Winni Zhou; Additional reporting by in Shanghai and Ryan Woo in Beijing; Writing by John Ruwitch; Editing by and Nick Macfie)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, November 05 2018. 11:17 IST
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