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Li Keqiang

US, China should proceed with respect and equality, Premier Li Keqiang tells Beijing congressmen

  • Two sides must ‘meet each other halfway’, leader tells visiting lawmakers in Beijing
  • Nations are ‘competitors but not adversaries’, US Senator Lamar Alexander says
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 November, 2018, 11:01pm
UPDATED : Friday, 02 November, 2018, 2:31am

China and the United States should work together to get their relations back on track, China’s premier said in Beijing on Thursday, ahead of the US midterm elections and a possible meeting between presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump.

Speaking at a meeting with a group of visiting US congressmen led by Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Premier Li Keqiang said he hoped the two sides “will meet each other halfway and work together in the spirit of mutual respect and equality”.

“In this way, our two countries will be able to overcome differences and have the wisdom to overcome the obstacles and move our relationship forward on an even sounder track.”

Alexander, who will run for re-election in 2020, in July teamed up with Democratic Senator Doug Jones to present a bipartisan bill aimed at stopping the Trump administration from imposing unilateral punitive tariffs on foreign carmakers, especially those from European countries.

Li’s comments come at a time of rising tensions between Beijing and Washington caused by a trade war and strategic tussling in the South China Sea.

US secretary of state warns China to ‘behave like a normal nation on commerce’

According to a report by state broadcaster CCTV, Li said China and the US had benefited from cooperation, and that they should respect each other’s core interests and concerns.

However, both Chinese and the US observers have said there is bipartisan consensus in the US for tough action on China to force it to change its trade practices and industrial policies.

Alexander was quoted as telling Li that the two countries were “competitors but not adversaries” and that their mutual interests outweighed their conflicts.

His comments came a day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China should “behave like a normal nation on commerce and with respect to the rules of international law”.

Pompeo’s comments were the latest slur to come out of Washington, which has accused Beijing of meddling in US politics, conducting cyber espionage against aviation firms and hacking Trump’s iPhone.

The US president has also threatened to extend his punitive tariffs to all Chinese imports if face-to-face talks with Xi, planned for November 29 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, fail to break the deadlock on trade.

China’s latest economic indicators suggest the trade war is having a bigger and quicker impact on the economy than expected.

Acknowledging downward pressure on growth, the top leadership in Beijing has called for stability in employment, trade and foreign investment, while maintaining the legitimate rights of foreign companies.

Additional reporting by Reuters