Wrapping up a three-day trip to the United States, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said China is committed to increasing imports of U.S. products to level the trade balance between the two nations.
“We have demonstrated our utmost sincerity, and we are very much ready to increase our imports from your country,” Wen told CNN’s Lou Dobbs in an interview to air Thursday evening.
He did add one caveat: “We hope the United States will open more to China, especially in the high-tech sector.”
President Bush has faced increasing political pressure at home over the soaring trade deficits with China, which could reach $130 billion this year.
Wen said his five-point trade plan was well received at the White House when he presented it to Bush this week.
In the wide-ranging interview, Wen said China respects the “desire of the Taiwan people to develop and pursue democracy,” but opposes efforts by Taiwan’s leaders to “cut off Taiwan from the sacred territory of the Chinese motherland.”
And he said flatly that China opposes nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula.
Wen met this week with Bush and an array of U.S. officials in what he described as talks held in a “friendly, candid, cooperative and constructive atmosphere.”
He noted the two nations do not see eye-to-eye on every issue, but he said both sides must work “to remove these differences and ensure smooth development of our constructive and cooperative relationship.”
“We are both of the view that the further strengthening and improvement of China-U.S. relations not only serves the interest of our two peoples, but is also conducive to peace and stability in the whole world,” Wen said.
“We both believe the China-U.S. bilateral relationship is the most important state-to-state relationship in our world.”
When Bush welcomed Wen to the White House on Tuesday, the president bluntly served notice that the United States opposes plans for a referendum in Taiwan that the administration views as a means of stoking pro-independence sentiment. Those comments were warmly greeted by Beijing.
Despite the warning, Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian defended the plans to hold the referendum, which would demand that China reduce its military threat against the island.
In the CNN interview, Wen said China fundamentally opposes the referendum.
“We respect the desire of the Taiwan people to develop and pursue democracy,” he said.
“However, we firmly oppose the attempts by certain security forces in Taiwan to pursue Taiwan independence under the disguise of promoting democracy in an attempt to cut off Taiwan from the mainland.”
Playing down any prospect of war over the issue, he said, “The people of Taiwan are our blood brothers and sisters. So as long as even the slightest hope for peace exists, we will work to our utmost to strive for the peaceful process.”
On another key issue in the region, he laid out China’s position on North Korea and its desire to develop nuclear weapons.
“China does not believe that the Korean Peninsula should have nuclear weapons,” he said.
“So therefore, we believe that the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula should be resolved through peaceful means and through diplomatic means in the interest of peace and stability on the peninsula.”
As for U.S.-China trade, he said he hopes his five-point plan will help level the playing field. At the same time, he noted that despite the deficits, U.S. exports to China have increased “by fairly big margins.”
Among his suggestions in the five-point plan:
• Seek “mutual benefits” that would help both countries in the long run.
• Expand U.S. exports to China, while removing various restrictions on exports from China.
• Establish and improve a “coordinating mechanism for the resolution of trade issues.”
• Approach trade issues on the basis of equal consultations, rather than imposing restrictions on certain goods.
• “Economic and trade issues should not be politicized.”
“Trade between our two countries has brought tremendous benefit to the people of both countries,” Wen said. “We will still try to promote a balance in our bilateral trade in an active and positive approach.”