China will buy more US goods, top official says ahead of latest trade war talks

Catherine Wong
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China will buy more US goods, top official says ahead of latest trade war talks

China will work to boost imports and achieve a more even balance of trade with the United States, a top Chinese official said on Sunday, just days ahead of the latest round of talks aimed at bringing an end to the two countries’ punishing tariff war.

Speaking at the China Development Forum in Beijing, Vice-Premier and Politburo Standing Committee member Han Zheng told a gathering of foreign business representatives and former government officials from the US and other countries that his government was committed to levelling the playing field.

“We do not aim to … [increase the] trade surplus and sincerely want to increase imports to achieve trade balance,” he said.

Han said also that China would improve market access, including shortening the “negative list” of industries in which foreign investment is limited or prohibited, and ban the practice of forcing foreign firms to transfer proprietary technology to joint venture partners.

“As the next step, we will continue to shorten the negative list for foreign investors and allow sole proprietorship of foreign businesses in more sectors,” he said.

China would also speed up the opening up of more sectors, including telecommunications, education and health care, he said.

“We will continue to strengthen intellectual property protection, prohibit forced technology transfers, and build a penalty and compensation system [for infringement cases],” added Han.

The pledges come as Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He, the country’s top trade negotiator, prepares to welcome US trade representative Robert Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to Beijing for the latest round of trade talks, which get under way on Thursday.

Liu and his team will later travel to Washington for a second phase of the talks, starting on April 3, the White House said earlier.

US President Donald Trump has made reducing the trade gap with China one of the priorities of the negotiations and Beijing is reported to have promised to buy larger quantities of US agricultural and energy products to help achieve that goal.

The trade gap for goods bought and sold by the US and China in 2018 rose 11.6 per cent from the previous year to a record US$419 billion.

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