China sought to set a positive tone on Tuesday ahead of a meeting with the US at the G20 summit this week by pledging to open its economy “even wider“ to the outside world, “greatly improving“ protection for intellectual property and proactively boosting its imports of overseas products.
In a speech in Hamburg that did not mention the US by name, Liu He, China’s influential vice premier, also appealed to Europe to offer joint support for free trade in the face of rising protectionism.
“China and Europe are both staunch supporters of the rules of free trade and the multilateral system and we share enormous common interests,“ Mr Liu told a business audience. “We have to make concerted efforts to deepen our co-operation.“
His remarks follow comments by Donald Trump, the US president, that Washington may be set to raise tariff levels on $200bn of Chinese goods to 25 per cent from a current 10 per cent. Mr Trump added it was “highly unlikely“ that he would accept Beijing’ appeal to hold off on the increase.
Mr Trump and Xi Jinping, China’s president, are expected to talk face to face at the G20 summit in Argentina on December 1st. The G20 includes as members the European Union and several European powers such as Germany, France and the UK.
Stressing the steps China has taken to open its economy to foreign competition, Mr Liu said market access restrictions for foreign banks, brokerages asset managers and insurers have been eased and similar measures are in train for selected manufacturing sectors such as autos, ships and aircraft.
Beijing was also “speeding up“ the opening of its telecommunications, education, medical services and culture sectors, he added. “The development of the Chinese economy in the future can only be guaranteed on the basis of even greater openness,“ Mr Liu said. “China’s door of opening up will open even wider.“
The vice-premier, who has been deeply involved in Beijing’s efforts to resolve the US-China trade war, promised improvements in the protection of intellectual property rights of foreign companies in China — a key US demand.
“On strengthening IPR protection, we understand this is an area of special interest to our foreign friends,“ he said, listing several measures such as a revised patent law and harsher punishment for offenders that “are expected to greatly improve IPR protection“.
Addressing Mr Trump’s demand that China should import more, Mr Liu said Beijing was being proactive in boosting imports and had already cut tariffs on 1,500 imported items, bringing the country’s average tariff weight to around the level of the developed nations.