Xi vows to open China's market further, raps U.S. trade protectionism

©Kyodo News

Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged Wednesday to open the country's market further, apparently criticizing the United States for sticking to unilateralism and protectionism on trade.

"We should not be self-centered. We oppose unilateralism and protectionism," Xi said in a video speech at the opening ceremony of the third annual China International Import Expo in Shanghai.

Xi also emphasized that China will speed up negotiations on a free trade agreement with neighbors Japan and South Korea, and work for an early signing of the 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership framework.

At its key meeting late last month, China's ruling Communist Party committed to upholding a "dual circulation" strategy to bolster domestic demand while trying to boost exports, as it has claimed the United States has promoted a "decoupling" in global markets.

With Sino-U.S. tensions escalating over several economic and security issues as well as the spread of the novel coronavirus weighing on both external and domestic demand, China's economy faced a severe downturn in the first quarter of this year.

The economy has recently been on a recovery track on the back of a rebound in investment and industrial production, although consumer sentiment has remained lackluster as the employment situation has been worsening at home following the pandemic.

The world's second-biggest economy expanded 4.9 percent from a year earlier in the July-September period, after plunging 6.8 percent in the first quarter in the aftermath of the virus outbreak and picking up 3.2 percent in the three months from April.