China will tackle US trade dispute in 2019: minister

Beijing (AFP) –


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.