Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang. Photo: Reuters/Nicolas Asfouri
Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang. Photo: Reuters/Nicolas Asfouri

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang says US policies toward China under President-elect Donald Trump may be uncertain, but he is optimistic because of the US business community’s enthusiasm for US-China trade.

At a luncheon with US. and Chinese business people and government officials in Washington on Tuesday, Wang said he believed that businesses and the US government would ultimately make the “right choices” to take advantage of market opportunities in China’s economy.

“What the US government will do we will wait and see, and I think it’s difficult to predict, just like the US presidential election,” Wang said through an interpreter. “The large crowd here tells us one thing. Although there will be a change in the US government, the passion of the US business community for economic cooperation with China has remained unchanged.”

Two weeks after Trump’s stunning election on the back of anti-trade sentiment among workers in US industrial states, the president-elect’s plans for managing tense relations with China remain unclear.

On the campaign trail, Trump had said China is “killing us” on trade. He threatened to declare Beijing a currency manipulator, levy a 45% punitive tariff on all Chinese goods to reduce a massive US trade deficit with China and pull out of the World Trade Organization, the global trade body that allowed China to join in 2001.

As he builds his administration, Trump has added some harsh critics of China’s trade practices to his transition team, including Dan DiMicco, a former chief executive officer of steel giant Nucor Corp and Washington trade lawyer Robert Lighthizer, a former trade negotiator during the Ronald Reagan administration.

Wang made his remarks at the start of a round of talks of the US-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT), which include officials from the two countries who focus on technical issues such as safety and regulatory approvals that can become barriers to trade.

Major opportunities

Wang said the JCCT and other forums such as the cabinet-level Strategic and Economic Dialogue talks promoted by the Obama administration have helped to reduce trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

Wang also said China would continue to offer major opportunities to American companies, including buying more than US$8 trillion in total imports over the next five years. China also anticipates US$500 billion in foreign direct investment from all countries and investing US$720 billion overseas, while 600 million Chinese are expected to travel overseas in the same period, he said.

“This will generate enormous business opportunities for the companies of all countries including the United States,” Wang said. “I think in the face of a emerging big market like China, the American companies and government will make the right choices.”

Major problems in the US-China relationship would be bad for both economies as well as the global economy, he added.