China foreign investment law: Bill aims to ease global concerns

17 Mars, 2019, 02:03 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • China-US trade war: New Chinese law seeks to address concerns

China, meanwhile, showed its consideration for the United States at the National People's Congress, with Premier Li Keqiang emphasizing in his speech on the first day that Beijing will proceed with its "reform and opening-up" policy.

Jacob Parker, Beijing-based vice president at the US-China Business Council, welcomed the "positive language" in the bill but said "real investment on the ground will depend on how narrowly tailored those negative lists are going forward".

China's economic slowdown and the ongoing trade war with the United States topped the agenda of Chinese legislators who gathered in Beijing. It says the law, which was passed Friday, includes better safeguards for intellectual property and an end to the practice of forcing worldwide firms to hand over critical technology to their Chinese partners.

The law was created and passed within 3 months, in what's being seen as a rare, swift response from China.

It aims to improve the transparency of foreign investment policies and ensure that foreign-invested enterprises participate in market competition on an equal basis. "It doesn't matter what the Chinese government puts on paper".

In addition, the new law has also met many demands raised previously by foreign businessmen. "All laws and regulations will continue to provide the Communist Party of China (CPC) with a great deal of room for maneuver to intervene, albeit not explicitly", she underlined.

The law includes provisions on national security, which some firms worry could be used as cover to shut worldwide businesses out of certain projects or to confiscate investments altogether.

"The newly signed Foreign Investment Law in China dramatically increases scope for foreign investors" Chinese M&A and investment strategies. The chamber noted that the clause gives China power to take "unilateral action against trading and investment partners based on a principle of perceived negative reciprocity".

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Li also sought to soothe concerns that the tax cuts soon rolled out by the government will weigh on local finances, promising the central government will offer support to provinces in central and western China via payment transfers.

By the end of 2018, about 960,000 foreign-invested enterprises had been set up in China, with the accumulated foreign direct investment exceeding 2.1 trillion US dollars.

The legislation will come into force on 1 January 2020.

"What the security audit for foreign investment will look like and what this means in practice for foreign companies is not yet clear", said MERICS expert Drinhausen. "There's a lot of stuff that China can do" to protect domestic firms, he argued.

The legislation aims to address long-running grievances from foreign firms including stronger protections for intellectual property, but the U.S. and European chambers of commerce voiced concerns that they were not given enough time to give their input.

US President Donald Trump said on 14 March the negotiations should wrap up within four weeks, adding: "We are getting what we have to get".

"China's protection of domestic industry is a long-running concern for foreign business", said Diana Choyleva, chief economist at research firm Enodo Economics.

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