China's premier promises 'wider opening' of economy

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China's premier promises 'wider opening' of economy
Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and Premier Li Keqiang, right, stand as Vice President Wang Qishan arrives at the closing session of the annual National People's Congress in Beijing's Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

BEIJING (AP) — Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday promised China “will open even wider” to imports and investment and will fully open manufacturing industries to foreign competitors.

Beijing plans to eliminate import tariffs on drugs and slash duties on consumer goods, said Li, the country’s No. 2 leader, at a nationally televised news conference Tuesday held during the annual meeting of the national legislature. He said the country will “fully open the manufacturing sector,” with better protection for intellectual property.

Chinese leaders are under pressure to make their slowing, state-dominated economy more productive. They have promised to open more industries to private and foreign competition, but business groups complain they are moving too slowly.

“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.

“We will also fully open the manufacturing sector,” said Li. “There will be no mandatory requirement for technology transfers and intellectual property rights will be better protected.”

Beijing faces complaints it violates its market-opening commitments by requiring automakers and other foreign companies to hand over technology to potential Chinese competitors. The government of U.S. President Donald Trump is investigating whether Beijing is acting improperly, a probe American officials have suggested might lead to trade penalties.