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China defends trade with U.S. as Trump set to brand it a competitor

Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's Foreign Ministry on Monday defended trade with the United States as a win-win scenario ahead of a speech by U.S. President Donald Trump laying out a new national security strategy that makes clear that China is a competitor.

Trump has praised Chinese President Xi Jinping while also demanding that Beijing increase pressure on North Korea over its nuclear program and changes in trade practices to make them more favorable to the United States.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she was unable to comment on the strategy until it was unveiled.

But in principle, China hopes the strategy can play a constructive role in promoting world peace and stability and promoting China-U.S. strategic mutual trust, Hua told a daily news conference.

The essence of China-U.S. trade and economic ties is mutually beneficial and win-win, directly and indirectly supporting 2.6 million U.S. jobs, she added.

In 2015, the profits of U.S. firms that invested in China reached $36.2 billion, and China will continue to support trade and investment liberalization, Hua said.

"We are willing to work hard with the U.S. side to dedicate ourselves to building a robust, stable and healthy trade and economic relationship," she added.

That was in the interests of both sides and the expectation of the international community, Hua said. 

The national security strategy to be rolled out in Trump's speech, should not be seen as a bid to contain China but rather to offer a clear-eyed look at the challenges it poses, said U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Trump made his first visit as president to China last month, where he lauded his meetings on trade and North Korea as "very productive".

Washington has refrained from pushing harder on trade because it needs China's cooperation on North Korea, though Xi, at least in public when Trump was in Beijing, went no further than reiterating China's determination to achieve denuclearization through talks.

China and the United States have also repeatedly clashed over trade issues, including state support for Chinese firms and intellectual property rights violations in China.

On Friday, China's finance ministry said it would cut export taxes on some steel products and ditch those for sales abroad of steel wire, rod and bars from Jan. 1, stirring concern in the United States and Europe that the world's top steel producer may be looking to sell its excess product abroad.

It follows a ministerial level G20 meeting in Berlin last month, where China and the United States remained at odds over how to tackle excess steel capacity. The global steel sector is worth about $900 billion a year.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)