- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The White House said Tuesday that China’s president just blinked in the trade feud between Washington and Beijing.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Chinese President Xi Jinping actually “may have blinked three times” in a speech earlier Tuesday in which he offered trade concessions. 

“He’s talking about market openings. He’s talking about reducing barriers. He’s talking particularly in the automobile industry,” Mr. Kudlow said on the Hugh Hewitt radio show. “It’s a positive sign.”

In light of the Chinese president’s concessions, President Trump predicted that the two countries “will make great progress together!”

“Very thankful for President Xi of China’s kind words on tarrifs and automobile barriers…also, his enlightenment on intellectual property and technology transfers,” the president tweeted.

Mr. Xi, speaking at a business conference, promised Tuesday to cut China’s auto tariffs and improve intellectual property protection in possible concessions aimed at defusing a worsening dispute with Washington over trade and technology that investors worry could set back the global economic recovery.

“China’s door of opening up will not be closed and will only open wider,” Mr. Xi said at the Boao Forum for Asia on the southern island of Hainan.

China’s leader said Beijing will “significantly lower” tariffs on auto imports this year and ease restrictions on foreign ownership in the auto industry “as soon as possible.”

Private sector analysts saw Mr. Xi’s speech as an overture to help end the biggest trade dispute since World War II. It has fueled fears of a global economic chill if other nations respond with their own import barriers.

Markets surged in response in Asia, Europe and also in the U.S., where the Dow jumped nearly 429 points by the closing bell Tuesday.

But White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the administration will wait for China to back up its promising rhetoric with real action to eliminate unfair trade barriers.

“Certainly, we are encouraged by President Xi’s words and his kind words,” she said. “But at the same time, we want to see concrete actions from China, and we’re going to continue moving forward in the process and in the negotiations until those happen.”

Mr. Trump has threatened to raise tariffs on Chinese goods worth $50 billion in response to complaints Beijing pressures foreign companies to hand over technology in violation of its World Trade Organization market-opening commitments. Beijing fired back with its own $50 billion list of U.S. goods for possible retaliation.

Mr. Kudlow was cautiously optimistic about Mr. Xi’s apparent concessions.

“All of the things that we’ve been saying are wrong, he addressed in his speech in a positive way, that change is coming,” Mr. Kudlow said. “They’ve said similar things in the past. I acknowledge that. But it covered the waterfront, and it was billed as a major speech. It seemed like a peaceful speech with the intent of market openings. If it does, it changes the whole game.”

This article is based in part on wire-service reports.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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