China Offers Potential Trade Concessions Amid Escalating Tensions with U.S.

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the opening session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, March 3, 2018. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

Chinese president Xi Jinping vowed to implement a series of liberal economic reforms during a Tuesday speech, in a display of cooperation likely intended to deescalate tensions with the U.S. and avoid imminent trade war.

Though he did not mention President Donald Trump or the U.S. specifically, Xi promised to address two major issues that administration officials, and Trump himself, have harped on in recent weeks: China’s overzealous auto tariffs and lax intellectual property protections.

Xi said Beijing intends to “significantly lower” tariffs on auto imports and promote “normal technological exchange” by protecting “the lawful ownership rights of foreign enterprises.”

The speech, which was billed as a major address by government officials, also focused on opening China’s banking and manufacturing systems to foreign investment and condemned protectionist rhetoric.

“In a world aspiring for peace and development, the Cold War and zero-sum mentality look even more out of place.” Xi told the Boao Forum, a business conference on the island of Hainan.

“Putting oneself on a pedestal or trying to immunize oneself from adverse developments will get nowhere,” he said.

The signal of cooperation comes after Trump threatened to raise tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods – in addition to the previously proposed tariffs on $100 billion in Chinese imports — to punish Beijing for requiring companies to hand over proprietary technology in exchange for access to Chinese markets, in violation of World Trade Organization regulations.

Beijing responded last week, vowing to slap $50 billion in retaliatory tariffs on American imports, further escalating tensions and injecting uncertainty into global markets.

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