Beijing ready to discuss and work for a trade solution: V-P

He stresses that both US and China would gain from working together and lose from a confrontation

The world today faces many problems that require close cooperation between the US and China, said Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan. PHOTO: AFP

A day after Chinese President Xi Jinping took a swipe at his trade rival, US President Donald Trump, for his protectionist policies, his right-hand man adopted a more conciliatory stance at a global forum of top thinkers and business leaders, hinting the US-China trade stand-off should come to an end.

In his keynote speech at the first Bloomberg New Economy Forum at the Capella Singapore yesterday, Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan was forceful in denouncing trade unilateralism, while espousing the importance of settling any disputes through a rules-based system.

The world today faces many problems that require close cooperation between the US and China, he said, emphasising that both sides would gain from working together and lose in a confrontation.

"China will stay calm and sober-minded and embrace greater openness. Both China and the US would love to see greater trade and cooperation. We're ready to discuss and work for a solution on trade that is acceptable to both sides," he said.

"Negativity and anger are not the way to address the problems that have emerged from globalisation, nor will barriers and disputes help solve one's problems. Instead, they will only exacerbate global market turbulence."

Mr Wang's remarks come ahead of an anticipated meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Xi at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina at the end of this month. Mr Trump on Monday said China wants to strike a deal, and he is open to a fair pact.

The Chinese Vice-President's appearance as the high-level forum's keynote speaker was announced just days ago, heightening the excitement among the forum participants and media, given his political heft and close relationship with President Xi.

In his opening remarks, host and media mogul Michael Bloomberg described Mr Wang as "one of the most influential political figures in China and on the world stage".

Mr Wang has been a leading figure steering China's economic reform and foreign policy, and previously drove President Xi's far-reaching anti-corruption campaign.

The economic forum was originally slated to be held in Beijing. Organisers moved it to Singapore after the conference's Chinese partner requested that it be postponed to next year, as it clashed with China's ambitious inaugural China International Import Expo in Shanghai, which President Xi opened on Monday.

It was at this expo that the Chinese leader, warning of the dangers of protectionist trade policies, vowed to open up China even more, expand imports and strengthen intellectual property protection.

Mr Wang's speech to an audience of 400, which included former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, former US Treasury secretary Henry Paulson and former Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee Hwa, largely reiterated China's call to stick to the principles of mutual respect, openness and building consensus so that economic benefits can be shared by all.

He also took the opportunity to repeat the oft-cited need for the world to understand China's history and its past humiliation by imperial powers, and how that has shaped the Chinese psyche.

"China has to blaze a trail of its own," he said. "In the history of mankind, rejuvenation is for those who have had a glorious past."

In his 15-minute speech, Mr Wang spelt out the challenges facing the world, from rising populism to income inequality and climate change. He urged countries to "stay the course" and "respect each other's choice of economic path, build consensus and consultation".

His official visit to Singapore ends today. Yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hosted a lunch for him. Mr Wang also called on President Halimah Yacob at the Istana on Monday.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2018, with the headline Beijing ready to discuss and work for a trade solution: V-P. Subscribe