Chinese president Xi Jinping reiterated pledges to open sectors from banking to auto manufacturing in a speech that also warned against returning to a "Cold War mentality" amid trade disputes with United States counterpart Donald Trump.
President Jinping's statements were hailed by US President Donald Trump, who had sparked the "trade war" after levying increased tariffs on steel and aluminium from China. Asian markets and S&P futures rose following promises to cut tariffs on imported cars in 2018, lower restrictions on foreign ownership in key industries, and better protect foreign intellectual property.
After the US unveiled a list of $50 billion in potential tariffs on Chinese products, Beijing responded with plans to implement billions in penalties on USA soybeans, cars and other items.
As seen in the chart below from Westpac Bank, China's trade surplus with the United States has ballooned over the past decade as exports to the USA grew substantially faster than imports heading in the other direction.
If the two sides can't agree on a solution, the next step could be for Beijing to request a ruling from a panel of trade experts.
Trump has signed off on duties on $50 billion of Chinese imports which are due to take effect later this year, and he threatened to retaliate with tariffs on another $100 billion in Chinese goods, after Beijing said it would target United States agricultural goods among other items.
Lower tariffs could mean better sales for USA vehicle companies, while banks could also gain entry into the Chinese market. USA companies have long argued that China uses a range of tactics to force them to transfer intellectual property such as industrial designs and patents, and that Chinese entities engage in widespread theft of US trade secrets.
In addition, the country's financial regulators plan to remove limits on foreign shareholdings in Chinese financial institutions. The announcements appeared to set a firmer timetable for implementation as Yi said the measures would be taken "in the coming months".
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"We want the outcomes of our opening-up efforts to deliver benefits as soon as possible to all enterprises and people in China and around the world", Xi said.
China has repeatedly said it will open up sectors such as financial services, including promises to the Trump administration a year ago that it would give full and prompt market access to U.S. payment network operators.
Private sector analysts saw Xi's speech as an overture to help end the biggest trade dispute since World War II.
In November, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the country would attempt to raise the limit on ownership by foreign investors in the new-energy vehicle sector from the current 50 per cent, allowing global carmakers to take a controlling stake or have full ownership of their mainland operations.
China's trade surplus with the United States grew 13 percent year on year to 1.87 trillion yuan last year, data showed.
Jinping has made similar promises before.
"We will make great progress together!" Most recently, on Wednesday US announced tariffs on 1,300 Chinese goods, which led to China imposing tariffs on 106 US products.
"We will not bully our neighbors", the president said. "Arrogance or self-righteousness can only bump into walls at every turn".
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