February 28, 2024

Ambassador Gary Locke Urges China to Open Wider to Investment

In his first speech on economic matters since arriving in Beijing last month, Mr. Locke, a former commerce secretary and an expert on trade relations, told a gathering of American business leaders that the Chinese government’s refusal to open up important sectors of its economy to foreign investment was an increasing concern in the United States, where some members of Congress have been calling for a harder line against China.

“China’s current business climate is causing growing frustration among business and government leaders, including my colleagues back home,” Mr. Locke said in a speech to the American Chamber of Commerce in China. He said a raft of obstacles to foreign corporations — including those focused on mining, health care, energy and financial services — “was planting seeds of doubt in the minds of foreign investors as to whether they are truly welcome in China.”

In his speech, Mr. Locke reiterated many of the themes he advocated as President Obama’s commerce secretary, but he also waded into the politically delicate realm of Internet freedom, calling on the ruling Communist Party to relax online censorship. Such restrictions, he suggested, hamper China’s ability to compete in the global economy by hindering the free flow of information and stifling innovation.

“If China’s businesses, entrepreneurs, academics, scientists, researchers and students and even ordinary citizens aren’t able to fully participate in the international marketplace of ideas, then China as a country and as an economy will fail to realize its full potential,” Mr. Locke said.

Despite China’s robust economic growth, many American businesses say they are increasingly stymied by government regulations that favor Chinese corporations, especially the state-owned enterprises that dominate banking, energy, telecommunications and other sectors. Another irritant involves longstanding rules that force many overseas companies into ventures with Chinese partners.

As part of its efforts to spur domestic job growth, Mr. Locke said the Obama administration was pressing for initiatives to reduce limitations on the export of American technology to China, while helping foreign investors navigate the sometimes daunting tangle of American government regulation. Such measures, he said, would invariably benefit Chinese corporations, which have enjoyed a 400 percent increase in direct investment in the United States since 2008.

In his closing remarks, Mr. Locke said China would do well to return the favor. “The United States is doing everything it can to make our investment and commercial climate as open and appealing as possible,” he said. “Unlocking the full potential of the U.S.-China relationship requires China to take similar steps.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/21/world/asia/ambassador-gary-locke-urges-china-to-open-wider-to-investment.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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