China to open up further: Premier Li Keqiang

(From left) European Council president Donald Tusk, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker at a news conference in Beijing yesterday, after the annual China-EU summit. Mr Li said China would continue to provi
(From left) European Council president Donald Tusk, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker at a news conference in Beijing yesterday, after the annual China-EU summit. Mr Li said China would continue to provide a good business environment for foreign companies.PHOTO: REUTERS

It will also forbid forced tech transfers, he says at end of China-EU summit

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has pledged again to further expand access to the country's markets and forbid forced technology transfers, two major bugbears of the United States and the European Union in doing business with China.

This was as the European Council president Donald Tusk called on China, the US and Russia to work together to prevent the descent of trade tensions into "conflict and chaos" amid an escalating trade war between China and the US.

The leaders were speaking after the annual China-EU summit yesterday, with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker urging the Chinese to level the playing field for European firms operating in the country.

The summit is taking place as China is under pressure from the US to change what Washington regards as unfair trade practices, including subsidies for state-owned firms and theft of intellectual property. The US has imposed punitive tariffs on US$34 billion (S$46 billion) worth of Chinese goods with threats of more to come.

"China wants to see more balanced trade relations with the EU," Mr Li told reporters yesterday.

China last year exported €374.82 billion (S$598 billion) worth of goods to the EU, which in turn exported €198.2 billion (S$316 billion) of goods to China, with the EU having a deficit of €176.62 billion. This is smaller than the US$375 billion deficit the US had with China last year.

"China's door is opening up and will only open wider to the outside world. The Chinese government recently has taken a host of measures including reducing tariffs and expanding market access," Mr Li said.

  • $598b

    Value of goods that China exported to the EU last year. 

    $316b

    Value of goods that the EU exported to China last year. 

 
 

He added that China would continue to provide a good business environment for foreign firms including forbidding any forced transfer of intellectual property, something which European and US companies have accused the Chinese of doing.

The EU last month launched a World Trade Organisation (WTO) case against Chinese legislation that "undermines the intellectual property rights of European companies" by forcing them to grant ownership or usage rights of their technology to domestic Chinese entities.

Mr Li yesterday said his government would deal immediately with any case of serious violation of the intellectual property rights that is brought to its attention.

But Mr Juncker in his remarks suggested that the EU wants to see more done in terms of having a level playing field.

Pointing out that European firms' foreign direct investment in China fell to a low of €6 billion last year, he said this "reflects the concerns among our investors on the regulatory and administrative burden" foreign firms sometimes face in China.

In comparison, Chinese investments in Europe hit more than €30 billion last year.

"Europe wants to do more and invest more in China on the basis of a level playing field," he said, adding that "an open investment environment works when it is two-way".

To this end, he said, the first exchange of offers that took place yesterday on a comprehensive agreement on investment that the two sides were negotiating, "is an important step forward".

The EU also urged China, the US and Russia to refrain from trade wars "which turned into hot conflicts so often in our history" and to "bravely and responsibly reform the rules-based international order".

"There is still time to prevent conflict and chaos," said Mr Tusk.

In an allusion to China's subsidies for state-owned firms and other practices that the West sees as unfair, Mr Tusk said the modernisation of the WTO should include "new rules in the field of industrial subsidies, intellectual property and forced technology transfers, reduction of trade costs, as well as a new approach to development and more effective dispute settlement".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2018, with the headline 'China to open up further: Premier Li'. Print Edition | Subscribe