China’s Li Vows to Boost Imports, Expand Market Access

(Bloomberg) -- China’s premier pledged that his nation would expand access to markets and also boost imports, which have fallen this year.

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“We will continue to promote opening up, with greater inclusiveness and benefit-sharing,” Li Qiang said in a speech Sunday to kick off the China International Import Expo in Shanghai, adding that China “will actively expand imports.”

China’s No. 2 official also vowed “to protect the rights and interests of foreign investors in accordance with the law.” That comment came after a measure of foreign investment into the world’s second-largest economy turned negative for the first time since records began in 1998.

The promise to boost imports from other nations comes despite the slowdown in the Chinese economy, which has hurt demand for goods from around the world. China earlier reported that imports decreased 6.2% in September, down for the seventh month in a row.

See: CIIE Update: China Premier Pledges on Imports; Albanese Speaks

China has been seeking to lure more foreign investors into the nation to aid the economic recovery. Economists have said the decline in FDI by the balance-of-payments measure reflects less willingness by foreign companies to re-invest profits made in the country.

That’s due to strained ties with the West and the rising attractiveness of keeping cash overseas. Advanced economies have been raising interest rates while China has been cutting them to stimulate the economy.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, making the first visit by an Australian leader in seven years, spoke at the CIIE just after Li, saying his nation would will “continue to work constructively with China” as “it is in all our interests to have a relationship where there is dialogue and cooperation.”

Albanese was attending the expo to promote Australian exports and businesses. China recently removed trade curbs on Australian barley, coal and timber, moves that followed an extended period of frosty ties between Canberra and Beijing.

Albanese said at a lunch hosted by Tourism Australia that “we are now on a path to restore our wine trade” with China. He also told reporters that he wanted to see all the remaining curbs removed, allowing trade to flow normally again. “We want to see China be able to benefit from receiving that and we want to see Australian businesses benefit as well,” Albanese said.

Albanese is now in Beijing, where he’ll meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Monday.

Also: Australia’s Albanese Begins First China Trip With Trade in Focus

In his remarks on Sunday, Li also pledged that the Asian nation would be more proactive in “promoting the orderly and free flow of data in accordance with the law.”

China put a new law on data into effect in 2021 that prompted worry among executives at multinationals over their ability to operate in the nation. In September, the government proposed relaxing some of the strict rules on data flows abroad, a move partly aimed at allaying the concerns and reviving faltering growth.

More: China’s Spies Pledge Crackdown on Weather Data Going Abroad

The CIIE began in 2018 and is aimed at providing foreign exporters with an opportunity to increase their trade with China.

Border closures due to the pandemic meant that few people were able to attend in person over the past three years. Xi addressed the expo via video in 2022, saying the nation will expand imports of “high-quality products.”

--With assistance from Ocean Hou.

(Updates with Anthony Albanese set to meet Xi Jinping in Beijing.)

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