United States Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has warned his Chinese counterpart that a spate of antitrust investigations against foreign companies could harm bilateral relations.
In a letter to Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang, Lew said China’s actions could devalue foreign intellectual property, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people with knowledge of its contents.
The letter also made reference to a meeting in July between Lew and Wang at an economic forum in Beijing at which China committed to using its monopoly laws to promote consumer welfare, not other companies or industries.
Previously, Chinese officials have said they treat foreign and domestic companies equally.
Xu Kunlin, a senior antimonopoly official at the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic-planning body, said Thursday that foreign companies accounted for about 10 percent of antimonopoly cases.
International business lobbies have raised complaints over a string of monopoly and pricing probes they say unfairly target foreign companies.
Chinese officials pressure executives not to contest accusations and that the probes are unfairly aimed at protecting Chinese companies rather than building a free-market economy, the report said.
Since China stepped up enforcement of its six-year-old monopoly law, a number of foreign companies have been investigated including Microsoft Corp. and Qualcomm Inc. for alleged monopolistic activity.
Regulators earlier this month handed Microsoft a 20-day deadline to explain compatibility and bundling issues with its software. Both companies have said they are cooperating.
On Thursday, local pricing authorities in Shanghai slapped a 31.7 million yuan (US$5.2 million) fine against a local arm of Fiat SpA’s Chrysler over car pricing. The carmaker said it “respects and accepts” the ruling.
Last week, the US Chamber of Commerce said in a report that discriminatory use of China’s monopoly law “arguably violates commitments that China undertook when it acceded to the World Trade Organization.”
In August, the European Chamber of Commerce in China said it heard “alarming” accounts from European companies that intimidation tactics are being used and that companies were discouraged from bringing in outside lawyers.
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