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China vows to pursue balanced trade development amid US trade spat

Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses political leaders and heads of state from 37 countries in Beijing, on April 26, 2019, during the opening ceremony of a summit on the country's "One Belt, One Road" cross-border infrastructure development initiative. (Kyodo)

BEIJING (Kyodo) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged Friday that the world's second-largest economy will seek "balanced trade development" rather than pursuing trade surpluses, as negotiations between his country and the United States enter the final stretch.

"We do not deliberately pursue trade surpluses," Xi said in Beijing during his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the second "One Belt, One Road" summit, apparently taking a jab at U.S. President Donald Trump's protectionist tendencies.

"We are willing to import more foreign competitive high-quality agricultural products, manufactured goods and services to achieve balanced trade development," Xi added, while promising to strengthen measures to protect intellectual property rights.

Trump has urged China to take steps to reduce its massive trade surplus with the United States and to rectify Beijing's alleged unfair trade practices, such as intellectual property and technology theft, and Xi appears to have made a conciliatory gesture towards Washington.

The United States and China are likely to hold ministerial-level negotiations from next Tuesday in Beijing, and from May 8 in Washington, in an effort to resolve what has been an escalating tit-for-tat tariff war worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

The governments of the world's two largest economies have held several rounds of talks to end their protracted trade spat which has rattled global financial markets and dealt a blow to the world economy since it was sparked early last year.

In his speech, Xi also emphasized the significance of Beijing's One Belt, One Road cross-border infrastructure initiative, saying it has "built a new platform for international trade and investment and has expanded new practices for improving global economic governance."

Under the project, China has sought to expand infrastructure networks in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa to attain its goal of connecting nations along the ancient Silk Road trade routes more closely.

The One Belt, One Road initiative, however, has been lambasted for leaving recipient countries burdened with massive debts, causing them to cede control of key infrastructure.

Xi tried to brush aside such criticism, saying China will promote "high-standard" and "sustainable" projects in accordance with international rules while respecting the laws and regulations of other nations.

According to the Chinese government, political leaders and heads of state from 37 countries -- including Russia, Italy, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines -- are participating in the three-day summit.

The latest meeting comes after Italy last month signed a memorandum of understanding with China to jointly advance Beijing's infrastructure initiative, becoming the first Group of Seven industrial nation to do so.

China has considered the summit a window of opportunity to bolster its economic clout across Eurasia, with political leaders of countries like Austria, Portugal and Thailand taking part in the gathering for the first time, analysts said.

The United States, meanwhile, has declined to send senior government officials to the summit. From Japan, Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, is in Beijing to attend the summit.

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