Chinese premier: Our economy faces ‘new, downward pressure’

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said Friday that the government will remain supportive of the economy in the face of new pressures on growth.

National People’s Congress. The meeting of roughly 3,000 delegates in Beijing is typically symbolic in nature as the real power lies with the Communist Party and its Politburo Standing Committee, headed now by President Xi Jinping.

This year’s National People’s Congress also takes place as the international legal battle over Chinese telecom giant Huawei intensifies, and U.S.-China trade negotiations reach a critical point.

Li on Friday did not disclose details on the latest progress of the trade talks. He emphasized that the two sides remained in close discussions, and expressed confidence that both sides had enough wisdom to diffuse tensions.

In response to a question about whether China forces its technology companies to spy on other countries — a prominent argument from the U.S. and others against the use of Huawei hardware — Li maintained that the government would never require such behavior.

“Let me tell you explicitly that this is not consistent with Chinese law,” he said, through an official translator. “This is not how China behaves. We did not do that and will not do that in the future.”

On Friday, the gathering of Chinese delegates endorsed a new foreign investment law that added new language at the last minute that added further protection of foreign company commercial and trade secrets, according to a final draft reviewed by the U.S.-China Business Council.

The new law, which is set to take effect Jan. 1, 2020, could help Beijing show U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration that it’s serious about reaching a deal on trade. State media reported Friday that leaders of both the American and Chinese delegation held a phone call early in the morning Beijing time.

During the opening of the congress last week, Li laid out a bleak picture for China’s economy. He stressed the need to prepare for a “tough struggle” and set a lower growth target range of between 6 to 6.5 percent growth. Official government figures showed the world’s second-largest economy grew at 6.6 percent last year, its slowest pace since 1990.

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