China says Xi pledges unrelated to US trade spat


China denied President Xi Jinping’s pledge to further open the country’s economy amounts to concessions in a trade spat with the United States, and warned it was ready to hit back at any new US protectionist moves.

Xi on Tuesday vowed to ease tariffs and open the economy up more in what was seen as a conciliatory gesture to temper fears of a US trade war after Donald Trump last week threatened fresh levies on billions of dollars of Chinese goods.

The US president welcomed the speech and said he saw an end to the dispute, which has roiled markets since the start of March.

But Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng warned Beijing was ready to strike back if the United States presses on with its nationalist economic agenda.

“If the US side takes its own course and insists on carrying out unilateralism and trade protectionism, the Chinese side will fight resolutely and take them on until the end,” Gao told reporters at a regular news briefing.

World markets rallied after Xi pledged at an economic forum to lower car tariffs, protect intellectual property and take other steps to open China’s economy “wider and wider”.

“China took the initiative to open up and made it possible for all countries across the world to ride on the express of China’s economic development,” Gao said.

But, he added, it “has nothing to do with China’s trade friction with the US” and “we hope some people in the US don’t misjudge the situation”.

Gao once again struck down market hopes that the world’s two largest economies have been negotiating on trade issues.

“Up to now China and the US have not carried out negotiation at any level on the trade frictions,” he said, blaming the US for not showing “sincerity” in its actions.

“China will not carry out negotiations under unilateral coercion,” Gao told the press briefing.