China seeks to rebrand global image with import expo

5 November, 2018 12:00 AM printer

BEIJING: Facing a blizzard of trade complaints, China is throwing an “open for business” import fair hosted by President Xi Jinping to rebrand itself as a welcoming market and positive global force.

More than 3,000 companies from 130 countries selling everything from Egyptian dates to factory machinery are attending the China International Import Expo, opening Monday in the commercial hub of Shanghai. Its VIP guest list includes prime ministers and other leaders from Russia, Pakistan and Vietnam, report agencies.

The United States, fighting a tariff war with Beijing, has no plans to send a high-level envoy. Xi’s government is emphasizing the promise of China’s growing consumer market to help defuse complaints Beijing abuses the global trading system by reneging on promises to open its industries.

“This says, look, we’re not a global parasite that is creating massive deficits, we are buying goods,” said Kerry Brown, a Chinese politics specialist at King’s College London.

The event also is part of efforts to develop a trading network centered on China and increase its influence in a Western-dominated global system. President Donald Trump and his “American First” trade policies that threaten to raise import barriers to the world’s biggest consumer market loom in the background.

Exporters, especially developing countries, want closer relations with China to help “insulate themselves from what is happening with Trump and the U.S.,” said Gareth Leather of Capital Economics.

China has cut tariffs and announced other measures this year to boost imports, which rose 15.9 percent in 2017 to $1.8 trillion. But none address the U.S. complaints about its technology policy that prompted Trump to impose penalty tariffs of up to 25 percent on $250 billion of Chinese imports. Beijing has responded with tariff hikes on $110 billion of American imports.

Chinese leaders have rejected pressure to roll back plans such as “Made in China 2025,” which calls for state-led creation of global champions in robotics and other fields, ambitions that some American officials worry will undermine U.S. industrial leadership.