China Says Xi's Reform Pledges Unrelated to U.S. Trade Tensions

(Bloomberg) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping’s promises to open sectors from banking to auto manufacturing were unrelated to U.S. trade complaints and not intended as a response, the country’s foreign ministry said.

“I can tell you clearly that China’s announcement of major opening-up measures has nothing to do with the current China-U.S. economic and trade conflicts,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing Wednesday in Beijing. “China’s opening up is free from outside interference and the outside world cannot interfere with it.”

During a long-planned address to mark the 40th anniversary of China’s economic opening, Xi reaffirmed or expanded several proposals to increase imports, lower foreign-ownership limits on manufacturing and boost the protection of intellectual property. The policies, which China has been rolling out for months as part of its own economic development plans, also address issues central to U.S. trade complaints.

Xi’s conciliatory tone was welcomed by markets from Sydney to New York as a sign of easing trade tensions. U.S. President Donald Trump thanked Xi for his “kind words” in the speech, which didn’t mention his name, and predicted the two would make “great progress together.”

“People who understand the operations of the Chinese government should all understand that the introduction of so many major initiatives requires repeated consideration, thoughtful and careful planning,” Geng said Wednesday. “And it is impossible to make decisions in a short period of time.”

Trade talks between the world’s biggest economies broke down last week after the Trump administration demanded that China take steps to curtail support for high-technology industries, Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the situation. China is considering offering major concessions on trade and investment to the European Union and countries such as Japan and Mexico, the person said.

The dust-up suggests that the trade dispute won’t be resolved quickly. In recent days, Chinese officials have expressed increased frustration with the U.S., with the foreign ministry on Monday calling talks “impossible” under current conditions.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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