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World must ‘knock down walls’: Xi

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Chinese President pledges to open China's economy further

SHANGHAI: President Xi Jinping yesterday pledged to further open China's economy, declaring the world must "knock down walls" as he opened an annual trade fair in Shanghai.

Mr Xi addressed an audience including French President Emmanuel Macron at the import exhibition, staged annually by China to show its willingness to free up its vast domestic markets in the face of criticism that they are too cosseted by Beijing.

The world community must "continue to knock down walls instead of building walls, resolutely oppose protectionism and unilateralism, (and) continuously reduce trade barriers", Mr Xi said.

However, the speech was light on specifics and unlikely to mollify foreign critics who accuse China of a range of protectionist measures and failing to deliver on reform promises.

With China and the US working to lock in a partial trade deal announced last month, Mr Xi steered clear of their tariff war in his remarks.

It was a stark contrast to his keynote last year at the height of the trade confrontation, when Mr Xi took a swipe at the Trump administration, decrying "protectionism", "isolationism" and "the law of the jungle", while not specifically naming the United States.

In a separate development, people familiar with the China-US trade talks said Beijing is pushing Mr Trump to remove more tariffs imposed in September as part of a "phase one" US-China trade deal.

The deal, which may be signed this month by Mr Trump and Mr Xi at a yet-to-be determined location, is widely expected to include a US pledge to scrap tariffs scheduled for Dec 15 on about US$156 billion (S$212 billion) worth of Chinese imports, including cell phones, laptop computers and toys.

A US official said the fate of the Dec 15 tariffs is being considered as part of negotiations and a potential signing trip this month.

Another source briefed on the talks said Chinese negotiators want Washington to drop 15 per cent tariffs on about US$125 billion worth of Chinese goods that went into effect on Sept 1. They are also seeking relief from earlier 25 per cent tariffs on about US$250 billion of imports ranging from machinery and semiconductors to furniture.

A person familiar with China's negotiating position said it is continuing to press Washington to "remove all tariffs as soon as possible".

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the two sides remained in touch.

"Trade consultations have made progress and are advancing in accordance to plan," Mr Geng said. - AFP, REUTERS