Xi Jinping has launched an attack on a "law of the jungle" approach to trade, a comment that will be seen as a marginal note to Donald Trump prior to a G20 summit this month, where the two will discuss their tariff reconciliation.
The tough rhetoric of the Chinese president to open an international business fair in Shanghai can express the hope that the G20 summit in Argentina could bring a deal to end the dispute between the US and China, that the two countries are charging rates for billions of dollars in bilateral trade and rattles. Asian markets.
Mr. Trump hoped for an agreement last week when he promised a "very good" telephone conversation with Mr. Xi that put a "big emphasis" on the trade. But the Chinese leader did not show any signs of a trade throw, with the aim of unilateralism – a clear reference to recent hardline actions by the White House.
"As globalization deepens, the practices of" law of the jungle "and" winner-take-all "are a narrow path that leads to a dead end path," Xi said. during the opening ceremony of the China International Import Expo. "Inclusion and reciprocity, win-win and mutual benefits is the broadening and correct path."
Asian markets renewed their sale on Monday, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closing 2.1 percent and Chinese CSI 300's large share in Shanghai and Shenzhen declining 0.8 percent.
Mr. Xi has repeatedly tried to put himself forward as a champion of multilateral agreements and to reduce trade barriers, repeated commitments he made at the Bo & # 39; ao Forum in April and the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2017, that he would move to the Chinese economy for foreign investors.
But the address was light on details and new obligations, and foreign managers and diplomats said they were wary of Mr. Xi's promises, claiming they remain vague and followed with some specific reforms on market access and intellectual property.
"If you say: & # 39; We open our market and the door is open & # 39 ;, that is very good," Kris Peeters, the Belgian Minister of Commerce, told the Financial Times after the speech of the lord Xi. "It is very important that China takes action where the words are".
Despite increasing skepticism, Mr. Xi reiterated his promise to reduce tariffs and reduce investment barriers, and promised further opening measures in the areas of telecom, medical care, education and culture.
He added that China would support "necessary" reforms to the World Trade Organization to protect the multilateral trading system. In a nod to concern about technological competition, Mr. Xi has also committed to a stronger protection of intellectual property, including a harsher punishment for offenders.
"Every country must work hard to improve its own business environment, you can not always embellish yourself while you criticize others, and you can not flicker others without looking at yourself," Mr. Xi added.
The Chinese president was not the only in-secret criticism of American trade policy, with Jack Ma, founder and chairman of technology group Alibaba, calling the trade war "the most stupid thing in this world" during a panel session. The last remarks from the entrepreneur come after he had previously warned that the trade war between the US and China could last 20 years and the & # 39; a mess & # 39; could call.
According to Mr. Xi, China would import $ 30tn of goods and $ 10tn of services over the next 15 years – a figure that does not suggest significant acceleration from China's current import trajectory.
But Mr Peeters said that European companies are still concerned about the Chinese rules that require cooperation in certain sectors, protection of intellectual property and unequal treatment of foreign companies by the Chinese bureaucracy.
"What matters is that concrete actions are carried out and reforms are clearly planned," said Carlo D & # 39; Andrea, vice-president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China. "If China really remains open, we would have expected President Xi to have made additional and specific commitments today."
Beijing wants to use the one-week event – attended by government officials and business leaders from 172 countries – to demonstrate China's commitment to expanding imports.
The US and Western European countries have chosen not to send high-level delegations to the event, shifting the focus to developing countries where China has attempted to position itself as the leader of a united bloc. Mr. Xi's attempt to create support between smaller and lower incomes is that the White House has attempted to form a united front with Europe and Japan against what the US regards as abusive Chinese business practices.
Some 450 Japanese companies would, however, be present, in the midst of warming relations between Beijing and Tokyo.
Mr. Xi's speech came when new data point to a slowdown in the Chinese services sector in October, with the index of Caixin-Markit's purchasing managers index at a low of 13 months.
Mr. Xi attempted to address the concerns about a slowdown in the Chinese economy in his speech, referring to incentives introduced in recent months.
"Uncertainty in some areas has increased, business difficulties for some companies have increased and risk problems have increased in some areas," Xi said. "These are problems that you encounter during the course of the project, we take active measures to tackle them and the result is already clear."
Additional reporting by Tom Hancock in Shanghai
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