China’s Xi Makes Veiled Swipe at US Trade Policies at Import Expo in Shanghai

November 5, 2019 Updated: November 5, 2019

Chinese leader Xi Jinping urged countries to uphold multilateral trade principles and criticized protectionist policies, in a veiled swipe at U.S. trade policies, in a speech at a trade fair in Shanghai on Nov. 5.

Xi inaugurated the opening of the China International Import Expo (CIIE), an annual import show in Shanghai from Nov. 5 to Nov. 10, saying more must be done to remove global trade barriers.

His comments come as Washington and Beijing work to finalize the text of a “phase one” trade agreement which may be signed by President Donald Trump and Xi later this month.

Xi said no country can singlehandedly resolve the challenges facing the world economy.

“We must hold our hands rather than do things separately. We must demolish the walls rather than build a wall. We must stand firm against protectionism and unilateralism, and constantly reduce trade barriers,” he said.

Since the start of the U.S.–China trade dispute last year, the Chinese regime and state-run media have criticized the United States for imposing tariffs on Chinese goods, accusing the U.S. administration of “protectionism” and “unilateralism.”

The indirect jab at “building a wall” appears to relate to U.S. President Donald Trump’s immigration policy.

The regime launched the import expo last November as the U.S.–China trade war was ramping up, in what critics said was an attempt to find alternative sources to American products that the Chinese stopped buying in retaliation to U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.

The Chinese leader also reiterated broad pledges to continue to open China’s economy and markets, and strengthen protections of intellectual property rights.

Critics say the week-long Chinese buying spree once a year does little to address structural concerns, including weak intellectual property protection, entry barriers, and the lack of a level playing field for foreign businesses in China. Such issues formed the impetus for the United States to launch the trade dispute last July.

Xi urged greater cooperation in innovation-sharing between countries, saying they should do their best to “break the barriers that restrict the flow of innovative elements, such as knowledge, technology, and talent.”

The United States and Europe have firmly criticized the regime for engaging in or sanctioning the theft of intellectual property from Western universities, companies, and research institutes as part of an effort to achieve global superiority in a range of high-tech industries.

Meanwhile, the regime also forces foreign companies to transfer technology to local partners as a condition of doing business in China.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who attended the expo, expressed hope for an end to the U.S.–China trade war.

“Much has been done in recent years with two revisions of the negative lists for foreign investment … important tariff reductions have been granted. We call for their consolidation and deepening,” Macron said in remarks that followed Xi’s.

“We need a greater openness of China and its domestic market,” he said, citing the agri-food sector.

Reuters contributed to this report.