China’s premier urges US to ‘act rationally’ over trade

Premier Li Keqiang, above, made no mention of a possible Chinese response in the event US President Donald Trump raises import barriers over trade complaints against Beijing, but other officials say the government is ready to act. (AP)
Updated 20 March 2018
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China’s premier urges US to ‘act rationally’ over trade

BEIJING: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang appealed to Washington on Tuesday to “act rationally” and avoid disrupting trade over steel, technology and other disputes, promising that Beijing will “open even wider” to imports and investment.
“No one will emerge a winner from a trade war,” said Li, the No. 2 Chinese leader, at a news conference held during the meeting of China’s ceremonial legislature.
Li made no mention of a possible Chinese response in the event US President Donald Trump raises import barriers over trade complaints against Beijing, but other officials say President Xi Jinping’s government is ready to act.
Trump’s government has raised import duties on Chinese-made washing machines and other goods and is investigating whether Beijing pressures foreign companies to hand over technology, which might lead to trade penalties. That could invite Chinese retaliation.
“What we hope is for us to act rationally rather than being led by emotions,” the premier said. “We don’t want to see a trade war.”
Commerce Minister Zhong Shan said March 11 that China will “resolutely defend” its interests but gave no details. Business groups have suggested Beijing might target US exports of jetliners, soybeans and other goods for which China is a major market.
Asked whether Beijing might use its large holdings of US government debt as leverage, the premier said its investments are based on market principles and “China will remain a responsible long-term investor.”
Li promised more market-opening and other reforms as Xi’s government tries to make its cooling, state-dominated economy more productive. He said Beijing will make it easier to start a business and will open more industries to foreign and private competition.
The ruling Communist Party promised in 2013 to give a bigger role to market forces and entrepreneurs who generate most of China’s new jobs and wealth. Reform advocates complain they are moving too slowly.
Private sector analysts say Xi, who took power in 2012, might accelerate reform after focusing for his first five-year term as party leader on cementing his status as China’s most dominant figure since at least the 1980s.
“If there is one thing that will be different from the past, that will be that China will open even wider,” said Li.
Beijing plans to “further bring down overall tariffs,” with “zero tariffs for drugs, especially much-needed anti-cancer drugs,” the premier said.
Li repeated a promise he made at the March 5 opening of the legislature to “fully open the manufacturing sector” to foreign competitors.
“There will be no mandatory requirement for technology transfers and intellectual property rights will be better protected,” he said.
The government has yet to say how that might change conditions for automakers and other manufacturers that are required to work through Chinese partners, which requires them to share technology with potential competitors.
In a sign of Li’s reduced status as President Xi Jinping amasses power, the premier was flanked by eight newly promoted economic officials, in contrast to previous years when he appeared alone at the annual news conference.
They included Liu He, a Harvard-trained Xi adviser who was named a vice premier Monday and has told foreign businesspeople he will oversee economic reform. Neither Liu nor any of the other officials spoke at the event.
The premier traditionally is China’s top economic official but Xi has stripped Li of his most prominent duties by appointing himself to lead ruling party bodies that oversee economic reform and finance policy.


Porsche first German carmaker to abandon diesel engines

Updated 23 September 2018
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Porsche first German carmaker to abandon diesel engines

  • The company would concentrate on its core strength, ‘powerful petrol, hybrid and, from 2019, purely electric vehicles’
  • But Porsche promised it would keep servicing diesel models on the road now

BERLIN: Sports car maker Porsche said Sunday it would become the first German auto giant to abandon the diesel engine, reacting to parent company Volkswagen’s emissions cheating scandal and resulting urban driving bans.
“There won’t be any Porsche diesels in the future,” CEO Oliver Blume told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag.
Instead, the company would concentrate on what he called its core strength, “powerful petrol, hybrid and, from 2019, purely electric vehicles.”
The Porsche chief conceded the step was a result of the three-year-old “dieselgate” scandal at auto giant Volkswagen, the group to which the luxury sports car brand belongs.
VW in 2015 admitted to US regulators to having installed so-called “defeat devices” in 11 million cars worldwide to dupe emissions tests.
It has so far paid out more than €27 billion in fines, vehicle buybacks, recalls and legal costs and remains mired in legal woes at home and abroad.
Diesel car sales have dropped sharply as several German cities have banned them to bring down air pollution — a trend that Chancellor Angela Merkel was due to discuss with car company chiefs in Berlin later Sunday.
Stuttgart-based Porsche in February stopped taking orders for diesel models, which it had sold for nearly a decade.
Blume said Porsche had “never developed and produced diesel engines,” having used Audi motors, yet the image of the brand had suffered.
“The diesel crisis has caused us a lot of trouble,” he said, months after Germany’s Federal Transport Authority ordered the recall of nearly 60,000 Porsche SUVs in Europe.
Blume promised that the company would keep servicing diesel models on the road now.
According to the paper, Porsche also faces claims of having manipulated engines to produce a more powerful sound with a technique that was deactivated during testing.
Blume acknowledged that German regulators had found irregularities in the 8-cylinder Cayenne EU5, affecting some 13,500 units.
Merkel, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer and heads of German auto companies were due to meet in Berlin later Sunday to discuss steps to avoid more city driving bans.
The German government hopes to see one million fully electric and hybrid vehicles on the road by 2022, up from fewer than 100,000 at the start of this year.