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China pledges faster economic reform, says opposes protectionism

China's Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli delivers a speech during the gala dinner for the Fortune Global Forum (FGF) in Chengdu, Sichuan province, J
China's Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli delivers a speech during the gala dinner for the Fortune Global Forum (FGF) in Chengdu, Sichuan province, J

CHENGDU, China (Reuters) - China is committed to accelerate economic reform, move faster to a consumer-driven economy and expand imports, while strongly opposing all forms of protectionism, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli said on Thursday.

China, the world's second-largest economy, will in the next five years import $10 trillion worth of goods globally and invest $500 billion abroad, Zhang told a forum of Fortune 500 business leaders in Chengdu.

"We will accelerate change to the development model and vigorously improve and optimize the economic structure," Zhang said, adding that the country will work to expand consumer demand.

Zhang also said the impact of the global financial crisis cannot be smoothed out in the short term, and China would face a test over the "middle income trap" - when growth in developing economies stagnate due to loss of cost competitiveness and an inability to innovate.

"We must never lay undue emphasis on the speed of growth," Zhang said, emphasizing the need for steady development to relieve "stresses" in the economy accumulated over long years of rapid growth.

Earlier this week, the European Union said it will impose duties on imports of Chinese solar panels, infuriating Beijing despite European attempts to soften the blow with a reduced rate. China in response announced on Wednesday its own anti-dumping and anti-subsidy probe into imports of wine from the EU.

The official People's Daily newspaper said on Thursday that China still has plenty more cards to play in the dispute with the EU and accused Europe of not realizing its global power was waning.

"We are firmly opposed to protectionism of all forms and stand for the liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment," said Zhang.

Zhang, who made the remarks as China's President Xi Jinping is due to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama for a summit in Florida, said China is committed to achieving fair foreign trade growth and will "attach equal importance to imports and exports" and ensure that imports are expanded.

China's huge trade imbalance with the United States has long been a sore point in bilateral relations.

(Reporting by Melanie Lee; editing by Nick Macfie and Stephen Nisbet)

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