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China’s Premier Keqiang slams ‘unilateralism’ in trade disputes

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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has hit out against ‘unilateralism’ in a veiled allusion to the trade fight with the United States, and threw his weight behind further opening of the world’s second largest economy. AFP

China’s Premier Keqiang slams ‘unilateralism’ in trade disputes

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang railed against “unilateralism” on Wednesday in a veiled allusion to the trade fight with the United States, and threw his weight behind further opening of the world’s second largest economy.

Speaking at the summer session of the World Economic Forum in the eastern city of Tianjin, Li said problems must be worked out through consultations, a day after China and the US swapped tit-for-tat tariffs.

“It is essential that we uphold the basic principles of multilateralism and free trade,” Li said in his speech at the “summer Davos”.

“For any existing problems they need to be worked out through consultation,” Li said, adding that “unilateralism” does not offer solutions.

The trade war between the world’s two biggest economies deepened Monday when Donald Trump announced he would push ahead with tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods, on top of $50 billion already targeted.

Once the latest measures are imposed next week, Washington will have placed levies on around half its imports from China.

After Beijing decided to retaliate on Tuesday with duties on $60 billion in American products, Trump accused China of seeking to influence midterm congressional elections by taking aim at his political base.

The tariffs follow a recent invitation from Treasury Secretary Mnuchin to hold talks with his Chinese counterpart, but Beijing warned on Tuesday that the latest developments had led to “uncertainty”.

China’s yuan, also known as the renminbi, has steadily depreciated this year, causing Trump to accuse Beijing of deliberately manipulating the currency to offset the new tariffs.

‘Unaffordable penalties’

Li denied the claim, saying “there is no evidence” of that happening.

“For China, depreciation holds more negatives than positives,” he said. “China will not use renminbi depreciation to stimulate exports.”

Since coming to power Trump has pursued Beijing, complaining about its huge trade surplus with the US, accusing Chinese companies stealing American intellectual property and forcing US firms to transfer technology to gain market access.

Experts say IP protection has been improving in China, though some members of business associations from the US and Europe say they still have to transfer technology to operate.

“Any theft of IP from a Chinese company or a foreign company will be dealt with seriously with doubled, tripled and unaffordable penalties so all innovators will be fully assured in making innovations,” Li said.

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