China says "hard to understand" US skipping import fair

PEKING (Reuters) – China finds it "hard to understand" why the US is not sending high-level government officials to a major import fair in Shanghai next month, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: A US flag is being optimized in the run-up to a press conference between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Foreign Ministry in Beijing, China January 27, 2016. Jacquelyn Martin / Pool via REUTERS / FILE photo

The two largest economies in the world are in an escalating tariff series. President Donald Trump has charged China with alleged theft of intellectual property, barriers to entry into US businesses, and a gaping US trade deficit.

The China International Import Expo, which will take place from 5 to 10 November, will bring together thousands of foreign and Chinese companies to promote imports, dispel foreign concerns about China's trade practices and show willingness to close trade gaps.

But the United States does not plan to send senior government officials to the fair, a spokesperson for the US embassy on Wednesday said, urging China to end trading practices it considers harmful and unfair.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily press conference that it was the right of the United States to send anyone they wanted, adding:

"On the one hand, the United States is calling on China to open its markets to US products and services, on the other hand, the United States is not willing to send anyone if we open the door and invite people from everywhere "

"This way of speaking and acting, I believe everyone will believe how I do it is extremely contradictory and difficult to understand," she said.

The import show shows that China is ready to open its doors to other countries and share the benefits of Chinese development, Hua added.

Another 130 countries and 2,800 companies have decided to participate, including 180 US companies such as Microsoft Corp. (MSFT.O), Disney (DIS.N) and Intel Corp (INTC.O), She said.

"Many US companies have said to China that they want to use this expo to enhance cooperation between Chinese companies and regions and US companies and regions, and to create a more effective platform for doing so," Hua said.

China said British Trade Minister Liam Fox will attend, while diplomats say most of the major trading partners will send delegations, including some who have criticized their trade practices, such as Australia, Canada, France and Germany.

President Xi Jinping announced the import fair in early 2017 and is expected to speak at its opening.

However, some critics have dismissed the event that China is planning every year as a propaganda campaign.

Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel

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