China will tackle US trade dispute in 2019, says Commerce Minister Zhong Shan

China said the talks with US negotiators last week had "laid the foundation" to resolve mutual concerns on trade.
China said the talks with US negotiators last week had "laid the foundation" to resolve mutual concerns on trade.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (AFP) - China will work to straighten out trade frictions with the United States this year, the country's commerce minister told state media, following talks with US negotiators last week.

A large US delegation ended a three-day visit to Beijing last Wednesday (Jan 9) in the first face-to-face trade talks since US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in December pledged a three-month truce in the escalating tariff spat.

China said the talks had "laid the foundation" to resolve mutual concerns on trade.

"We will properly handle the China-US economic and trade frictions" this year, Commerce Minister Zhong Shan said, according to a Saturday report by state media outlet Xinhua.

Mr Zhong said Beijing will also promote outside investment, work to pass a foreign investment law and improve its dispute resolution system, Xinhua reported.

China's policymakers have long promised a more open and free market with better protections for foreign investors, but officials have been slow to make good on those pledges - leading the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China to coin the term "promise fatigue".

Mr Zhong said China's negative list - which restricts investment in certain industries - will be further slimmed down, while Beijing also intends to expand economic sectors open for foreign investment without the need for a Chinese joint-venture partner.

 
 

The minister specifically outlined a push for foreign investment in manufacturing, high-tech industries and investment in China's inner regions - pledges which are similar to promises made last year.

Pushing Beijing to implement economic reforms and further open up areas for US investment is a focus in trade negotiations with Washington.