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China promises cooperation on steel at global summit

HANGZHOU, China — China agreed to cooperate more closely with its trading partners on its politically volatile steel exports as leaders of major economies ended a summit Monday.

In a joint statement, President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping and the leaders of Britain, Japan, Russia and other Group of 20 nations pledged to boost sluggish global growth by promoting innovation.

"The global recovery lacks momentum," Xi told reporters after the meeting. "We need to do more to unlock the potential for medium- and long-term growth."

There was no mention of a global stimulus or other joint action, which officials said earlier was unworkable because economic conditions vary widely from country to country.

In an effort to shore up public support for trade, the leaders promised "inclusive growth" to spread the benefits to people who have been left behind by wrenching change. That reflects a recognition that economic strains are fueling political tensions and a growing clamor to raise barriers against foreign competition.

The statement expressed "opposition to protectionism on trade and investment in all its forms."

Obama, Xi and other leaders called during the meeting for governments to defend free trade.

"The benefits of trade and open markets must be communicated to the wider public more effectively," the joint statement said.

The governments pledged to avoid devaluing their currencies to boost exports. They called for cooperation to reduce tax avoidance. They appealed for stepped-up aid for surging global numbers of refugees and their host countries.

Beijing made trade a theme of the gathering in this lakeside city southwest of Shanghai but faces complaints that a flood of low-cost Chinese steel into global markets threatens U.S. and European jobs, propelling the rise of political movements that promise to curb trade.

The joint statement calls for formation of a steel forum under the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to study excess production capacity.

In a concession to Beijing, the statement doesn't mention China by name and says excess steel capacity is a global issue. However, U.S. and European officials say the vast Chinese state-owned industry, which accounts for half of worldwide output, is the root of the problem. Washington has hiked import duties by up to 500 percent on Chinese steel to offset what it says are improper subsidies.

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