China's Xi Jinping pledges to cut auto tariffs amid U.S. trade clash

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Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday promised to open the country's economy further and lower import tariffs on products including cars, in a speech seen as conciliatory amid rising trade tensions between China and the United States.

Xi's pledges at a business conference came as China filed a World Trade Organization challenge over one aspect of its sprawling conflict with President Donald Trump - last month's US tariff hike on steel and aluminum. Experts cautioned, though, that Xi's comments may not do much to resolve the conflict, which has rocked markets in recent weeks.

"They will only open even wider", Xi said at the annual Baoao Forum for Asia.

For example, the Chinese government had promised in November to "gradually and properly" reduce tariffs on imported vehicles, though it didn't give a specific time frame for doing so. "And we can only achieve win-win results by insisting on peaceful development and working together", the Chinese leader said. Beijing has retaliated by announcing more than $50 billion of tariffs on U.S. exports to China.

"Oil prices have been susceptible to the brewing trade tensions between China and the US".

Xi's comments prompted a rapid and largely positive reaction in financial markets, which have been rattled over the past week on fears the tit-for-tat U.S.

Chinese H-shares listed in Hong Kong rose 1.4 percent to 12,236.79, while the Hang Seng Index was up 1.1 percent at 30,574.45.

On April 3, the US released a list of Chinese exports - semiconductors, cars, machine tools, etc. - worth about $50 billion, that would be hit with a 25% tariff.

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Xi's renewed pledges to open up the auto sector come after Trump on Monday criticized China on Twitter for maintaining 25 percent auto import tariffs compared to the United States' 2.5 percent duties, calling such a relationship with China not free trade but "stupid trade".

But other analysts said Xi's remarks could help lay the groundwork for a compromise.

The dispute is likely to end "with a concession from China", said Larry Hu of Macquarie Group in a report. Trump has called on Beijing to ease trade barriers "because it is the right thing to do". But he stressed the need for tackling problems through dialogue rather than confrontation, warning against adopting a "Cold War mentality". The United States filed a WTO complaint last month accusing Beijing of violating its trade pledges by imposing unfair contract terms and allowing companies to use foreign-owned technology after licensing periods expire.

Mr Xi also said China would speed up opening up of its insurance industry, with Shanghai Securities News citing a government researcher after the speech saying foreign investors should be able to hold a controlling stake or even full ownership of an insurance company in the future.

Xi, the country's most dominant leader since at least the 1980s, said Beijing will "significantly lower" tariffs on auto imports this year and ease restrictions on foreign ownership in the auto industry "as soon as possible".

"Taxes will become reciprocal & deal will be made on Intellectual Property".

"China will safeguard the principles of free trade and oppose protectionism", Wang said.

United States stocks plunged more than two percent Friday after Trump warned of tariffs on an additional US$100 billion worth of Chinese imports, provoking a strong response from Beijing and fanning fears of a full-blown trade war. Geng uttered, the current trade frictions is "entirely at the provocation of the United States".

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