Chinese premier Li Keqiang’s message on the penultimate day of his visit was that China would address the trade imbalance issue with India, even as he made a veiled reference to New Delhi’s burgeoning ties with Washington and Tokyo.
“I am confident we have the ability to mitigate the trade imbalance between our two countries,” Li said on Tuesday, a day after his formal talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Addressing a high-powered audience at Taj Palace Hotel, Li said, “China never has any intention to seek a trade surplus, only a dynamic trade balance is sustainable to our nations.”
India’s trade deficit has increased from $1 billion in 2002 to the current level of $40 billion. It had been a major item on the bilateral agenda, as Li — number two in China after President Xi Jinping — is in charge of economic policy.
“We understand Indian concerns on trade imbalance,” Li said, adding, “The Chinese side is also willing to provide facilitation to more Indian products to access Chinese markets.”
Li said India and China would soon start negotiations on a regional trading agreement. He noted that both countries complement each other, with India having a “competitive edge” in IT and bio-medicine, while China can help in developing infrastructure. Li added that both sides should work together to curb protectionism. Even as he praised Indian culture and progress on the economic front, Li also seemingly cautioned India against allying with other powers, who may be looking to contain China.
Quoting a Chinese proverb, he said, “A distant relative may not be as useful as a near neighbour.” He did not elaborate further, but it could be a hint at India’s deepening ties with the US and Japan.
Punctuating his speech with rhetorical flourishes, Li said, “Clouds cannot send out the brilliant sun of their relationship” – a reference to the boundary dispute.