A US business lobby has expressed concern that foreign companies are being singled out by Chinese regulators in their antitrust investigations, even as senior Chinese official insists that the probers were treating domestic and foreign firms equally.
The American Chamber of Commerce in China is the latest business lobby to air its grievances over a series of investigations scrutinizing at least 30 foreign firms, as China seeks to enforce a 2008 anti-monopoly law, Reuters reported.
There are growing perceptions that multinational firms are under “selective and subjective enforcement” using “legal and extra-legal approaches”, the chamber said.
A survey of 164 members showed 49 percent of respondents felt foreign companies were being singled out in recent pricing and anti-corruption campaigns, compared with 40 percent in a late 2013 survey of 365 members. Twenty-five percent said they were uncertain, or did not know, and 26 percent said no.
Chamber Vice Chairman Lester Ross told reporters the major expansion of enforcement was welcome in principle, but regulators were using “extra-legal” means to conduct investigations.
“They have taken what are, in many instances, vague or unspecified provisions in the law and moved to enforce them, and sought to enforce those means through processes that do not respect the notion of due process or fairness,” Ross was quoted as saying.
But Xu Kunlin, director general of price supervision and the anti-monopoly bureau at the National Development and Reform Commission, reiterated that local and foreign companies were being treated equally by the agency.
“Such accusations are groundless and baseless,” Xu told China Daily. “Some of the NDRC monopoly investigations involve overseas multinationals, but that does not mean that we are targeting them.”
“Some business operators in China have failed to adjust their practices in accordance with the anti-monopoly law,” he said in an interview with the newspaper. “Others have a clear understanding of the laws, but they take the chance that they may escape punishment.”
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