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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Glass panels are installed near a McDonald's in Beijing on Tuesday. President Donald Trump is in China hoping to ease strains between the two biggest economies.

Thursday, November 09, 2017 1:00 am

Trump visits China amid trade tensions

JOE McDONALD | Associated Press

Also: Countries sign deals valued at $9 billion

U.S. and Chinese companies have signed business deals the two sides say are valued at $9 billion during President Donald Trump's visit, in a tradition aimed at blunting criticism of Beijing's trade practices.

No details of the 19 agreements signed Wednesday at a ceremony attended by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross were immediately released.

Such contract signings are a fixture of visits by foreign leaders to Beijing and often involve agreements the Chinese side saved for the event to showcase the country's importance as a market.

Ford, Zotye embark on electric car venture

Ford Motor Co. announced Wednesday it is launching a $750 million venture with Anhui Zotye Automobile Co. to develop electric vehicles. China is the biggest market for the technology.

Zotye said its electric-vehicle sales in the first 10 months this year were up 14 percent over a year earlier, at 22,500. Sales of pure-electric and gasoline-electric hybrids in China rose 50 percent last year over 2015 to 336,000 vehicles, or 40 percent of global demand. U.S. sales totaled 159,620.

BEIJING – After a brief truce with China to cooperate on North Korea, President Donald Trump arrived in Beijing on Wednesday amid mounting U.S. trade complaints, with limited prospects for progress on market access, technology policy and other sore points.

The strains between the world's two biggest economies are fueling anxiety among global companies and advocates of free trade that they could retreat into protectionism, dragging down growth.

Washington accuses Beijing of backsliding on market-opening promises, and Trump said last week that the U.S. trade deficit with China – $347 billion last year – is “so bad that it's embarrassing.”

“I don't want to embarrass anybody four days before I land in China, but it's horrible,” Trump said.

His government has raised import duties on Chinese aluminum foil, stainless steel and plywood, and is investigating whether Beijing improperly pressures foreign companies to hand over technology.

If they discuss trade during the two-day visit, Chinese President Xi Jinping's government is unlikely to offer enough “to appease U.S. negotiators,” said John Davies of BMI Research.

That is likely to lead to “more protectionist measures on the part of the U.S.,” Davies said.

While Trump is looking to boost sagging public approval ratings, the Chinese leader enters their meeting on a political high.

The ruling Communist Party added Xi's name to its constitution at a twice-a-decade congress last month, giving him status equal to Mao Zedong, founder of the communist government, and Deng Xiaoping, who launched economic reforms in 1979.

At the congress, Xi promised to open the economy wider but affirmed plans to build up state-owned companies that dominate industries including finance, energy and telecoms. That, along with plans for government-led development of electric cars and other tech, makes foreign companies worry Beijing is squeezing them out of promising fields.

The chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, William Zarit, expressed concern that Trump appears to have done too little to prepare and said some companies worry his focus on trade in goods will mean he does too little about such “structural issues.” Zarit said those include limits on access to finance, health care and other industries.