China’s new commerce chief upbeat on building ties with US counterpart

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 March, 2017, 11:41pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 March, 2017, 11:41pm

Chinese trade minister Zhong Shan said he was looking forward to meeting his US counterpart Wilbur Ross, as he reiterated Beijing’s stance against a possible trade war between the two nations.

The newly appointed commerce minister said at his first press conference on Saturday that Ross was an excellent entrepreneur and a good negotiator.

“I am willing to deal with excellent people as they are good at handling issues from the long-term and strategic perspectives,” Zhong said in Beijing. “Mr Ross and I, as trade ministers of the two countries, share the task of stepping up bilateral cooperation, manage and control frictions, and to realise healthy and steady trade relations.”

China’s top leaders have repeatedly warned that a trade war would bring no winners. US President Donald Trump has threatened to slap tariffs on Chinese goods, which he argues have undercut American manufacturing. He has also labelled China a currency manipulator, but has not taken action on either threat.

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“A trade war will only bring harm and benefit nobody,” said Zhong, pointing to the close economic ties between the two nations.

“We are all waiting for [Trump’s economic and trade policies], but I believe both leaders and administrations will have a correction judgement on China-US trade ties,” he said.

“Any protectionism is against the interests of the two countries.”

Zhong, speaking cautiously in the press conference on the sideline of the National People’s Congress, did not answer questions on China’s possible role in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a US-led trade pact that was discarded by Trump on his first day in office.

He also declined to comment on other sensitive issues such as state media urging a boycott of South Korean products on the mainland amid Beijing’s anger over Seoul’s decision to deploy a ballistic missile shield.

Zhong also played down concerns that China had become less attractive for foreign investment. He said fluctuations in foreign direct investment into China in individual months would not determine the outlook for the whole year.