China set to boost access for US investors

By Huang Ge and Chu Daye Source:Global Times Published: 2016-3-16 23:58:01

Reciprocal efforts needed in BIT negotiations: Premier

The Tianjin Free Trade Zone in Yujiapu Financial District in North China's Tianjin Photo: CFP

China will increase market access for US investors, Premier Li Keqiang said Wednesday.

Li's remarks came as China and the US continue negotiations on a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), which is slowly moving forward, experts said.

The common interests between China and the US are bigger than their differences, Li said at a news conference after the conclusion of the annual legislative session in Beijing. 

China became the biggest trading partner of the US in 2015, with bilateral trading volume reaching $560 billion, Li said.

The two sides are making efforts to speed up the BIT talks and China will gradually increase market access for US investors, Li said, noting that this process should be reciprocal.

Since the Sino-US BIT negotiations started in 2008, a total of 24 rounds of talks had been held between the two sides by January 2016.

However, even though some critics have said that progress has been slow, experts said the process will inevitably be gradual, and the US must realize that mutual efforts are required.

"China will further open its market to foreign companies in the future despite the many challenges it faces during the current economic structural transformation," Huang Wei, director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Increasing access for US investors is one of the efforts China is making during the BIT negotiations, Huang said, noting that there is a "difference in the requirements for foreign capital access because the US has a more open market than China."

China has stepped up efforts to regulate the domestic investment environment, such as preparing to initiate a nationwide negative list for investment management by 2018 and drafting rules for investment from foreign companies, experts said.

"The US is expected to offer the same treatment to Chinese firms that seek business development in the US as companies from other countries and regions," Huang said.

US needs to open up too

Zhang Ning, a research fellow with the National Academy of Economic Strategy at the CASS, told the Global Times Wednesday that the Chinese government is welcoming and not biased against US companies.

"The question is whether the US can open up to investment from Chinese companies," Zhang said, noting that the US already has a mature policy concerning trade in goods with China.

"China's opening-up needs to take gradual steps based on its national conditions," Bai Ming, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times Wednesday

"The trade imbalance between China and the US is due to China exporting more goods to the US, but is also in part due to US limits on exports, such as high-tech products, to China," Bai noted.

Experts said China is actively "going global," driving an increasing number of Chinese firms to enter the US market in recent years, and this has caused some concerns in the US.

"From a regulatory point of view, the US government does not hold any bias against Chinese investment, though in practice the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States seems to apply more stringent rules when reviewing investment from China, especially in the telecommunications, data processing and cyber security sectors," Zhang said.

Investment by Chinese State-owned enterprises also seems to be treated with caution by the US, Zhang said.

The Sino-US bilateral economic relationship has always offered mutual benefits, and the US business community is well aware of this, Premier Li said.

The majority of US companies are still optimistic about the market potential in China, despite the regulatory challenges they face, according to a survey released in January by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham China).

The 2016 China Business Climate Survey Report was based on a poll of AmCham China's member companies, which number nearly 500, and conducted in partnership with US-based Bain & Company.

However, only 36 percent of the AmCham member companies said they expect the BIT to be completed in or before 2017, while another 37 percent said they expect the negotiations to be completed in 2018, according to the report.

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