Xi Jinping upholds free trade, pledges economic liberalization

April 10 (UPI) — Chinese President Xi Jinping championed the benefits of globalization and free trade at the China-hosted Boao Forum for Asia on Tuesday, a move that appeared to be critical of U.S. President Donald Trump and protectionist policies.

Xi delivered his remarks as Beijing warned of an impending trade war with the United States as both sides appeared to retaliate with increasing tariffs on imported goods.

The Chinese leader stayed away from mentioning Trump by name but said China is in a “new phase of opening up,” the South China Morning Post reported.

Xi wooed foreign delegates with promises of a better investment environment, pledging reforms in the country’s insurance and financial sectors.

“China relied in the past on creating favorable policies for itself,” Xi said. “We will have to rely more on improving our investment environment, we will increase our alignment with international rules, and our intellectual property protection.”

The Chinese leader added China enjoys a $376 billion trade surplus with the United States and wants to open up the Chinese market to more imports.

While the forum was being held in the island province of Hainan, in Beijing former Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, People’s Daily reported Tuesday.

Li told Kono China supports economic liberalization and free trade, adding China “welcomes foreign companies, including from Japan, investing in China and jointly opening up opportunities for development.”

Kono said Japan’s industrial sector welcomes the improvement of bilateral relations and looks forward to working toward better ties, the Chinese newspaper stated.

Japan has been compelled to rethink its trade policy following a decision from U.S. President Donald Trump to withdraw from the multilateral Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Wendy Cutler, a former acting deputy U.S. trade representative, said Japanese initiatives including the new Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership is a sign of Japanese “hedging” against diminished U.S. influence in Asia, according to The Japan Times.