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Wed 25 Sep 2019 08:56 AM

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Trump uses UN speech to hit China over trade weeks before talks

Trump's speech offered a reminder of the strategic tensions simmering between the world's two largest economies, despite positive signs in trade talks

Trump uses UN speech to hit China over trade weeks before talks
US President Donald Trump addresses the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City.

US President Donald Trump used his speech at the United Nations General Assembly to reiterate complaints about China’s trade practices just weeks before negotiators from both sides are due to meet in Washington.

After vowing to reach a quick trade deal with the UK following its departure from the European Union, Trump said two decades of expectations that freer trade with China would prompt it to be more market-friendly had failed.

“Not only has China declined to adopt promised reforms, it has embraced an economic model dependent on massive market barriers, heavy state subsidies, currency manipulation, product dumping, forced technology transfers and the theft of intellectual property and also trade secrets on a grand scale,” Trump said Tuesday at the UN.

The speech offered a reminder of the strategic tensions simmering between the world’s two largest economies, despite positive signs in trade talks. Chinese companies are preparing to purchase more American pork, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News, in the latest demonstration of good will ahead of another round of talks planned for next month.

Positive outcome

While Trump’s Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping wasn’t scheduled to speak at the UN, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi later told a business event in New York that he hoped the upcoming talks would “produce a positive outcome.” But he warned China hawks in the US against repeating the mistakes that led the two sides into armed conflict in the 1950-53 Korean War.

“Seventy years on, it is important for the United States to avoid picking another misguided fight with the wrong country,” Wang told the event organized by the National Committee on US-China Relations and the US-China Business Council. He added that the US had no reason to fear China, which had “no intention to play the game of thrones on the world stage.”

In his speech, Trump defended his imposition of tariffs on China, saying he wouldn’t accept a “bad deal.” He then shifted to the unrest in Hong Kong, putting the onus on Xi to find a peaceful solution.

“How China chooses to handle the situation will say a great deal about its role in the world in the future,” Trump said. “We are all counting on President Xi as a great leader.”

Ahead of next month’s trade talks, China has targeted American farmers -- an important political constituency for Trump -- in its retaliation for US tariffs, drastically cutting its purchases of soybeans and other commodities. Trump has responded with a bailout for farmers that so far totals about $28 billion.

Trade was just one area of Trump’s speech in which he spelled out his “America First” policies. The president’s remarks featured boasts about US might, complaints about its adversaries and warnings against uncontrolled migration and unregulated social media. He urged other countries to defend their borders and reject the erasure of nationalist identities.

“The future does not belong to globalists, the future belongs to patriots,” he said.