28 October 2016
Jack Lew and Xi Jinping shake hands before a meeting in Beijing Tuesday. Photo: AFP
Jack Lew and Xi Jinping shake hands before a meeting in Beijing Tuesday. Photo: AFP

US urges China to lower barriers to foreign firms

Senior US officials pressed China again Tuesday to reduce barriers to foreign businesses, Reuters reports.

Foreign business confidence has been affected by regulatory and protectionist worries following a series of government investigations targeting foreign companies and China’s rolling out of a national security law limiting the use of overseas technology.

“Concerns about the business climate have grown in recent years, with foreign businesses confronting a more complex regulatory environment and questioning whether they are welcome in China,” US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told Chinese and American businesses and officials on the second day of high-level talks between the two countries in Beijing.

“This means enacting policies that encourage healthy competition, ensuring predictability and transparency in the policy-making and regulatory process, protecting intellectual property rights, and removing discriminatory investment barriers. These policies are vital as China seeks to build on its economic progress in recent decades.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking at the same event, said that as the two economies become more intertwined in shared prosperity, they have more “skin in the game” to keep their economic relationship on an even keel.

Kerry expressed concern about China’s new law on foreign non-governmental organizations, which he said may have a negative impact on non-profit healthcare groups that want to do business in China.

The law, which  the National People’s Congress passed in April despite months of criticism and lobbying by the West, brings NGOs under the Ministry of Public Security, giving police broad authority over their finances and work.

A US official said the law was a major topic of discussion throughout the two days of talks.

At a news conference marking the end of the talks, Kerry said President Xi Jinping gave assurances that China “intends to remain open” and “does not see that these laws are going to be applied in any way whatsoever that affects the ability to open up and to do business”.

Meanwhile, Lew said China has committed to curbing its steel capacity and winding down weak state enterprises.

The commitment includes some new actions, including letting market forces determine which plants are excess, and to work with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on the issue, he said.

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