A Chinese national flag flies outside the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) headquarters in Beijing, China. (Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

China Meeting to Set 2019 Economic Polices Will Start Dec. 19

(Bloomberg) -- China’s leaders will hold their annual economic policy-setting meeting from Dec. 19 to Dec. 21, according to people briefed on the plans, as pressure mounts on Beijing to address U.S. concerns over market access before a March 1 deadline for trade talks.

At a meeting of the Politburo Thursday led by President Xi Jinping, top leaders signaled that campaigns announced last year against financial risk, pollution and poverty will continue. The nation should further stabilize employment, finance, trade, foreign investment and boost market confidence in 2019, according to a statement published by the official Xinhua news agency.

The annual gathering lays down priorities for economic policy for the coming year, though detailed targets aren’t usually released until legislative meetings in March. For 2019, China faces a tough combination of slower growth at home and uncertainty over the conduct of trade given the ongoing tension with the U.S.

“Policymakers will likely pledge more support for the private sector with fiscal easing and further opening up of domestic markets, and possibly set aside fiscal reserves and additional policy tools,” said Robin Xing, an economist at Morgan Stanley in Hong Kong.

Facing a 90-day trade truce with the U.S., China may see the need to announce further measures aimed at answering U.S. criticism, such as steps to open up protected markets.

Some of those may be expected at a meeting to mark the 40th anniversary of the country’s ‘Reform and Opening Up’ process, which will start from Dec. 18, according to officials briefed on the matter. They asked not to be named as the plans aren’t yet public. The State Council Information Office didn’t immediately respond to a request for confirmation.

"Official policy is likely to focus on alleviating downside risks" to the economy, and will likely discuss topics ranging from potential scenarios of the trade war to fiscal spending, said Jeff Ng, Asia chief economist for Continuum Economics.

In 2017, the Work Conference laid out a three-year approach to winning “critical battles” against financial risk, pollution and poverty. In the grip of the trade war, the leverage campaign has been softened. Economists see growth of the world’s second-largest economy slowing to 6.2 percent next year from 6.6 percent in 2018.

Chinese officials have been in close contact with U.S. counterparts, and welcome them to visit China for talks, according to a Commerce Ministry spokesman Thursday. Chinese officials are also willing to travel to the U.S., spokesman Gao Feng said, without adding further details.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.