China defends trade with US as a win-win scenario

This comes ahead of speech by Trump that is expected to make clear China is a competitor

BEIJING • China's Foreign Ministry yesterday defended trade with the United States as a win-win scenario ahead of a speech by US President Donald Trump laying out a new national security strategy that makes clear that China is a competitor.

While Mr Trump has praised Chinese President Xi Jinping, he has also demanded that Beijing increase pressure on North Korea over its nuclear programme and changes in trade practices to make them more favourable to the US.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said she was unable to comment on the strategy until it was unveiled.

But in principle, China hopes that the strategy can play a constructive role in promoting world peace and stability and promoting China-US strategic mutual trust, Ms Hua told a daily news conference.

The essence of China-US trade and economic ties is mutually beneficial and win-win, directly and indirectly supporting 2.6 million American jobs, she added.

In 2015, the profits of US companies that invested in China reached US$36.2 billion (S$48.8 billion), and China will continue to support trade and investment liberalisation, Ms Hua said.

"We are willing to work hard with the US side to dedicate ourselves to building a robust, stable and healthy trade and economic relationship," she added.

That was in the interests of both sides and the expectation of the global community, Ms Hua said.

The national security strategy to be rolled out in Mr Trump's speech, should not be seen as a bid to contain China but rather to offer a clear-eyed look at the challenges it poses, said US officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Mr Trump made his first visit as President to China last month, where he lauded his meetings on trade and North Korea as "very productive".

Washington has refrained from pushing harder on trade because it needs Beijing's cooperation on North Korea, though President Xi, at least in public when Mr Trump was in Beijing, went no further than reiterating China's determination to achieve denuclearisation through talks.

Beijing and Washington have also repeatedly clashed over various trade issues, including state support for Chinese companies and intellectual property rights violations in China.

Last Friday, China's Finance Ministry said it would cut export taxes on some steel products and ditch those for sales abroad of steel wire, rod and bars from Jan 1, stirring concern in the US and Europe that the world's top steel producer may be looking to sell its excess products in overseas markets.

It follows a ministerial level Group of 20 meeting in Berlin last month, where China and the US remained at odds over how to tackle excess steel capacity.

The global steel sector is worth about US$900 billion a year.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2017, with the headline 'China defends trade with US as a win-win scenario'. Print Edition | Subscribe