Chinese official optimistic about US trade amid Trump uncertainty

By By David LawderFeaturesReuters

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang said on Tuesday that U.S. policies toward China under President-elect Donald Trump may be uncertain, but he is optimistic because of the U.S. business community's enthusiasm for U.S.-China trade.

At a luncheon with U.S. and Chinese business people and government officials, Wang said he believed that businesses and the U.S. government would ultimately make the "right choices" to take advantage of market opportunities in China's economy.

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"What the U.S. government will do we will wait and see, and I think it's difficult to predict, just like the U.S. presidential election," Wang said through an interpreter. "The large crowd here tells us one thing. Although there will be a change in the U.S. government, the passion of the U.S. 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 U.S. 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 percent punitive tariff on all Chinese goods to reduce a massive U.S. 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 U.S.-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.

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 $8 trillion in total imports over the next five years. China also anticipates $500 billion in foreign direct investment from all countries and investing $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 U.S.-China relationship would be bad for both economies as well as the global economy, he added.

(Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jeffrey Benkoe)