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Chinese vice-premier optimistic about trade with US despite uncertainty over Trump’s China policies

Wang Yang says he takes a positive view because of American businesses’ enthusiasm for trading links with China

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 November, 2016, 2:21pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 November, 2016, 11:04pm

Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Yang said on Tuesday that US policies toward China under president-elect Donald Trump may be uncertain, but he is optimistic because of the American business community’s enthusiasm for US-China trade.

At a luncheon with US and Chinese business people and government officials, Wang said he believed that businesses and the US government would ultimately make the “right choices” to take advantage of market opportunities in China’s economy.

“What the US government will do we will wait and see and I think it’s difficult to predict, just like the US presidential election,” Wang said. “The large crowd here tells us one thing. Although there will be a change in the US government, the passion of the US business community for economic cooperation with China has remained unchanged.”

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Two weeks after Trump’s stunning election on the back of anti-trade sentiment among workers in US industrial states, the president-elect’s plans for managing tense relations with China remain unclear.

On the campaign trail, Trump had said China was “killing us” on trade. He threatened to declare Beijing a currency manipulator, levy a 45 per cent punitive tariff on all Chinese goods to reduce a massive US trade deficit with China and pull out of the World Trade Organisation, the global trade body that allowed the mainland to join in 2001.

As he builds his administration, Trump has added some harsh critics of China’s trade practices to his transition team, including Dan DiMicco, a former chief executive officer of steel giant Nucor Corp and Washington trade lawyer Robert Lighthizer, a former trade negotiator during the Ronald Reagan administration.

Wang said differences and frictions between China and the US had become more prominent with each passing year because of their closer economic and trading relationships. He said quarrels between Beijing and Washington indicated they “cared about each other so much”.

“Business friends may understand that deeply because much of their cooperation is always reached after debate,” he told the luncheon.

“[We should] face the disagreements positively and try efforts to tackle the problems effectively. That will become a powerful impetus to push economic and trading cooperation between China and the US,” he said.

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Wang pointed out that China was now the United States’ largest trading partner, creating one million jobs from exporting goods and services to China.

“It should be noted that many Chinese imports from the US are high-tech products that China cannot produce, while goods exported to the US are mostly products without a comparative advantage that the American are unwilling to produce,” he said.

Wang made his remarks at the start of a round of talks at the US-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, which include officials from the two countries who focus on technical issues such as safety and regulatory approvals that can become barriers to trade.

Wang said the joint commission and other forums such as the cabinet-level Strategic and Economic Dialogue talks promoted by the Obama administration have helped to reduce trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

“To be honest, communication couldn’t solve all problems, but it can increase mutual trust, manage disparities and create better condition for more cooperation,” he said.

He added that as long as China and the United States stick to the principles of non-conflict, mutual respect and “win-win” cooperation, the two countries can reach a new peak in economic and trade ties.

Wang also said China would continue to offer major opportunities to American companies, including buying more than US$8 trillion in total imports over the next five years. China also anticipates US$500 billion in foreign direct investment from all countries and investing US$720 billion overseas, while 600 million Chinese are expected to travel overseas in the same period, he said.

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“This will generate enormous business opportunities for the companies of all countries including the United States,” Wang said. “I think in the face of a emerging big market like China, American companies and government will make the right choices.”

Major problems in the US-China relationship would be bad for both economies as well as the global economy, he added.