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BEIJING (Reuters) - Voicing hopes that Beijing and the United States could avoid a trade war, Premier Li Keqiang told the close of the annual parliament session that China would open its economy further, so that foreign and Chinese firms can compete on an equal footing.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks at the news conference following the closing session of the National People's Congress (NPC), at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Fears of a global trade war mounted after U.S. President Donald Trump’s imposed hefty import tariffs on steel and aluminum earlier this month and, according to sources in Washington, the United States is set to unveil new tariffs specifically targeting China by the end of this week.

“I hope both China and the U.S. will act rationally, and not be led by emotions, and avoid a trade war,” Li told reporters in a televised news conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Those hopes would be damaged if, as sources say, Washington goes ahead with plans for new tariffs on up to $60 billion worth of Chinese technology and consumer goods annually, in a move to fulfill Trump’s campaign promises to get tough on China and its trade practices.

Earlier on Tuesday, riding high after China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament unanimously re-elected him and set the stage for him to rule indefinitely, President Xi Jinping warned self-ruled Taiwan it would face the “punishment of history” for any attempt at separatism.

The warning came just days after Trump angered Beijing by signing into law legislation encouraging closer ties between Taiwan and the United States.

But for the world, the potential fall out from any trade conflict between its two biggest economies posed the more pressing danger.

Without going into detail, Li told his once a year press conference that China will improve access to its services and manufacturing sectors while further lowering import tariffs, including those on cancer-related drugs.

“China’s economy has been so integrated with the world’s, that closing China’s door would mean blocking our way for development,” Li said.

“China’s aim is to ensure that both domestic and foreign firms, and companies under all kinds of ownership structure, will be able to compete on fair terms in China’s large market.”

TAIWAN WARNING

During his half-hour closing speech, President Xi was heavy on aspirational themes and he delivered a strong message on Taiwan, which is claimed by China as part of its territory.

“Any actions and tricks to split China are doomed to failure and will meet with the people’s condemnation and the punishment of history,” he said, to loud applause from the almost 3,000 parliamentary delegates.

China has been infuriated by Trump’s signing legislation that encourages the United States to send senior officials to Taiwan to meet Taiwanese counterparts and vice versa.

Xi made repeated references to a resurgent nation of 1.3 billion

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