China Trade Minister Looks Forward to Meeting 'Excellent' Ross

  • Commerce minister says China, U.S. economies ‘intertwined’
  • Zhong Shan says trade war offers no benefits to either side

China’s new Commerce Minister Zhong Shan said he looks forward to meeting his “excellent” U.S. counterpart Wilbur Ross for a shared mission of increasing cooperation and managing differences between the world’s largest economies.

“I noticed that Mr. Ross used to be an excellent entrepreneur, a good negotiator and, I can say, he’s very excellent,” Zhong said at his first press conference as trade minister on Saturday in Beijing. “I’m willing to deal with excellent people, because excellent people are good at thinking strategically for the long term.”

Zhong Shan

Photographer: Donat Sorokin\TASS via Getty Images

Managing differences can be a challenging job for the two top trade officials. U.S. President Donald Trump accused China of unfair trade practices and has threatened to introduce punitive measures. Commerce Secretary Ross, a 79-year-old billionaire businessman who called China the most protectionist of the world’s major economies, has said that a plan of action will be announced “as soon as we have a proper case.”

A trade war between China and the U.S. would harm both countries and offer no benefits to either side, Zhong said, citing their “intertwined” economic relations. The official, who was promoted to lead his ministry Feb. 24, said he believes the two governments will make the “correct assessment” on bilateral economic ties. “Now everybody is watching and waiting,” he said.

“Many American and western friends think that China can’t live without the U.S., and they’re half right,” Zhong said at the press conference, held on the sidelines of the annual legislative session of the National People’s Congress. “Similarly, the U.S. also can’t live without China,” he said, citing U.S. exports of Boeing Co. airplanes, soybeans and automobiles to China.

American exports to China expanded an average 11 percent in the past 10 years, outpacing the 6.6 percent growth in Chinese shipments to the U.S. during the period, according to Zhong.

Zhong, 61, previously served as a ministerial-level international trade representative and vice commerce minister. Before that, he was a deputy governor of exporting powerhouse Zhejiang province and worked under Chinese President Xi Jinping, the then-party chief for the region.

— With assistance by Miao Han, Kevin Hamlin, and Dingmin Zhang

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