Chinese President Hu Jintao sought to reassure executives at an Asia-Pacific summit on Saturday that China is open for business and will advance reforms but expects more say in setting the agenda for the global economy.
Economic governance should reflect changes in the global landscape to boost the voice of emerging markets and developing countries, Hu said in a speech at the annual meeting of leaders of the 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member nations in Hawaii.
China will work to reform the international economic system and make a more just and equitable international economic order, he said, adding that China would play a bigger role in international economic and financial organisations.
Hu's push for a broader role in global economic governance has fresh relevance as Europe turns to China for financial support in solving its sovereign debt crisis.
Hu also said China is committed to free trade in the region, but stressed the role of the World Trade Organization's Doha round of talks, putting him at odds with tougher standards the United States is advancing through a pan-Pacific pact.
Multilateral and free trade agreements, including the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), were important efforts to firmly oppose and jointly resist protectionism, he said.
The U.S.-led TPP deal is seen as a core piece of President Barack Obama's goal to ensure the United States remains a power in the Pacific, and does not cede its leadership position to a growing China. Obama said on Saturday that the broad outlines of the trade deal between at least nine countries had been reached.
China has not joined those talks, reluctant to sign trade accords that would subject it to U.S. efforts to further open its economy to foreign players and put pressure on its state-owned enterprises.
Relations between Washington and Beijing are beset by disagreements over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and China's military buildup in the Pacific, its human rights record and its currency and trade practices.
Hu defended China as a developing country, saying it faces severe problems with unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable development and its capacity for technological innovation is not strong.
But he offered reassurances over long-held worries about market access and fair treatment for foreign firms, promising a fair, stable and transparent environment for domestic and foreign investors.
China will reduce government intervention in microeconomic activities, improve mechanisms for oversight and ensure that government services are provided in a standardised, efficient and transparent way, Hu said.
Chinese leaders have said indigenous innovation policies would not discriminate against foreign companies.
But foreign firms, many of which depend on China for a growing share of profits, say they still face discriminatory practices and regulations, particularly at the local level, where Beijing's policies are not always closely enforced.
Complaints about the extent of China's protection of intellectual property rights are a common refrain, with President Obama saying at the forum on Saturday that China's practices were not acceptable.
China takes protecting intellectual property rights seriously, Hu told the business leaders in Hawaii.
GREEN GROWTH AGENDA
The United States put green growth at the centre of the APEC agenda, hoping to get countries to agree on a deal to lower tariffs on environmental goods and services, such as wind turbines and solar panels, to 5 percent.
China says it supports the notion of green growth, but has called the U.S. targets too ambitious. A U.S. investigation announced earlier in the week into whether China dumped subsidised solar equipment in the U.S. market may make China less willing to cooperate.
In his speech, Hu said APEC members should promote green growth, but respect countries' choice to pursue it on the basis of their resource endowment, stage of development and capacity.
China's Commerce Ministry has criticised the United States for preaching green growth while threatening protectionist actions on environmental products.