Nov 6 (NikkeiAsia) – China will allow greater market access and share opportunities with all countries, President Xi Jinping said on Friday, following a sharp slowdown of external trade and ongoing tensions with major economies.
In an address via video to open the China International Import Expo in Shanghai, Xi called on the world to commit to openness amid what he deemed “accelerated changes unseen in a century.”
“We will share with every country China’s vast market opportunities [while] we step up efforts to cultivate a robust domestic market,” Xi said.
“China will urge all countries and parties to share opportunities for deepening international cooperation, fully and deeply participate in the reform of the World Trade Organization, and promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation,” he added.
The Chinese leader, who has begun a third term following the Communist Party’s national congress last month, reiterated the country’s readiness to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which includes Japan among its 11 member countries.
At the same venue last year, Xi said China was open to negotiations on industrial subsidies and state-owned enterprises in order to join the trade pact.
The six-day annual expo, touted by local media as showcasing China’s commitment to opening up to the world, is being held amid the country’s trade slowdown.
In the first nine months of the year, exports and imports grew by 12.5% and 4.1%, respectively in U.S. dollar terms, down from 33% in the same period last year for both sectors.
The drag was blamed on weak domestic demand as well as rising global recession risk aggravated by Beijing’s zero-COVID policy that enforces strict lockdowns.
“China’s potential growth has been declining visibly,” Citi Research said in a report Thursday. “Looking ahead, we believe the slowing trend of potential growth will continue,” the report continued, citing a declining labor force and sluggish demand for housing among the reasons.
L’Oreal, Siemens and Uniqlo are among the foreign brands from 127 countries peddling their latest wares at the expo.
But contrary to Xi’s message of openess, business executives from abroad and within China are subject to pandemic restrictions. Overseas visitors are mandated to undergo a 10-day hotel quarantine, while those who are already in the country are required to take daily PCR tests.
At the national congress last month, Xi signaled a policy direction that would weigh more on politics and security rather than economic growth.
Meanwhile, relations with major economies led by the U.S. remain cooled over ongoing disputes involving trade and technology cooperation.
The Chinese economy grew by 3.9% in the third quarter, rebounding from a 0.4% rise in the second quarter.
“However, the support for the economy does not appear to be solid with the presence of obvious structural defects,” said He Jun, an economist at independent think tank Anbound in Beijing.
“Most worryingly, consumption is sluggish, market confidence is seriously lacking, and private investment continues to decline,” He added.