Chinese Premier Li Keqiang promises ‘tremendous opportunities’ for US firms

Catherine Wong

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told American business leaders in Beijing on Thursday that China will create “tremendous opportunities” for companies from the US and around the world by continuing to open up sectors of its economy.

Speaking to a visiting delegation led by Evan Greenberg, chairman of the US-China Business Council, Li said the two nations must first resolve their trade disputes through dialogue and on an equal footing.

“I believe there is still much potential in our business cooperation, and we continue to push forward our business ties on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefits,” he said.

“I see great prospects awaiting us on the road ahead.”

On Beijing’s promise to improve access to its markets – made during the latest round of trade negotiations in Washington last week – Li said the “door of opening up will only open even wider”.

“I have strong confidence that the ever-improving business environment in China will continue to generate tremendous market opportunities for US firms and companies from all other countries who are interested in continuing to do business in China,” he said

The government would ensure companies’ property and intellectual property rights, and improve the market environment for foreign firms operating in China, Li said.

The meeting came as officials from Beijing and Washington work to finalise the text of a “phase one” trade deal for Presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump to sign when they meet at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Chile on November 16-17.

The opening up of China’s financial services market, the provision of better protection for US intellectual property rights and agreements on agriculture and currencies were among the major consensuses reached in the deal.

Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping are set to sign a “phase one” deal when they meet at the Apec summit in Chile next month. Photo: AP

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday that he and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer would speak to China’s top negotiator, Vice-Premier Liu He, over the telephone next week and that the three men would meet in the Chilean capital of Santiago ahead of the planned meeting between Xi and Trump.

Following the latest talks, the Trump administration suspended a planned 5 percentage point tariff rise to 30 per cent on US$250 billion worth of Chinese goods, but a separate increase on about US$156 billion of imports from China is still set to take effect on December 15.

No invitation for US officials to travel to Beijing for talks, Mnuchin says

During the meeting with Li, Greenberg said that a decoupling of the world’s two largest economies would not benefit American companies.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (left) said he and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (right) would speak to Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He (centre) next week. Photo: Reuters

“This is an important period in the US-China relationship. Both countries, frankly speaking, are assessing the relationship and questioning the intentions of the other,” he said.

China plays up purchases of US farm goods in positive spin on trade talks

“Both sides have strong forces that view the other as the threat and are advocating disengagement.”

But while those voices “are growing in popularity … [disengagement] is not in our interest,” he said.

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