China will tackle US trade dispute in 2019: minister

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BEIJING: China will work to straighten out trade frictions with the US this year, the country's commerce minister told state media, following talks with US negotiators this week. 

A large US delegation ended a three-day visit to Beijing Wednesday in the first face to face trade talks since President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in December pledged a three-month truce in the escalating tariff spat. 

China said the talks had "laid the foundation" to resolve mutual concerns on trade. "We will properly handle the China-US economic and trade frictions" this year, commerce minister Zhong Shan said, according to a Saturday report by state media outlet Xinhua. 

Zhong said Beijing will also promote outside investment, work to pass a foreign investment law and improve its dispute resolution system, Xinhua reported. China's policymakers have long promised a more open and free market with better protections for foreign investors, but officials have been slow to make good on those pledges--leading the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China to coin the term "promise fatigue". 

Zhong said China's negative list -- which restricts investment in certain industries -- will be further slimmed down, while Beijing also intends to expand economic sectors open for foreign investment without the need for a Chinese joint-venture partner.

The minister specifically outlined a push for foreign investment in manufacturing, high-tech industries and investment in China's inner regions -- pledges which are similar to promises made last year. 

Pushing Beijing to implement economic reforms and further open up areas for US investment is a focus in trade negotiations with Washington. AFP