China committed to effective foreign investment law: Premier Li Keqiang

Red flags flutter outside the Great Hall of the People during the closing session of a conference in Beijing, China, on March 13, 2019.
Red flags flutter outside the Great Hall of the People during the closing session of a conference in Beijing, China, on March 13, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING - Beijing is committed to ensuring the new foreign investment law is a meaningful milestone in its opening up to the world, Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday (March 15).

Speaking to reporters at the close of China’s annual parliamentary session, Mr Li listed concrete steps the government would take in the coming months to give teeth to a law that some have said has been rushed out largely to assuage US concerns.

China’s new foreign investment law will lead to the creation of a new complaints filing regime and an information disclosure mechanism to ensure greater transparency, among other things, said Mr Li.

More importantly, it is a signal to various state organs on the emphasis Beijing has placed on protecting the rights and interests of foreign investors and to deepen government work in this area, he added.

“This law will regulate government behaviour, requiring the government to perform its functions in accordance with the law,” he said.

“The government will introduce a series of matching regulations and normative documents to protect the rights and interests of foreign investors.”

Replying to a question on perceptions that Beijing has not taken practical action to back-up its talk of greater reform and opening, and that the new law was accelerated mostly as a response to US pressure, Mr Li said that opening up “is China’s fundamental state policy”.

“It has delivered real benefits to the Chinese people, and it has benefited the world, so why won't we go ahead with it?” he said.

“If we make a promise on opening up, we will certainly deliver."

 

 

China’s new foreign investment law, which was first tabled for reading last December, states in broad terms that foreign firms will receive the same treatment as local ones when it comes to government procurement, and that the authorities will not force technology transfer in exchange for access to China's markets.

However, the law that passed on Friday had just 41 articles, compared to a more-detailed 2015 draft with 170 articles that stalled in the National People's Congress.

But the new law will be followed up in the coming months with more measures to make it “truly operable”, said Mr Li.

This includes a proposal to revise and strengthen related laws governing intellectual property rights, while a new mechanism to ensure that those that infringe such rights will be made to pay punitive compensation is also on the cards.

But alluding to parts of the new law that allows Beijing to retaliate against countries that it views as having discriminatory or restrictive provisions against Chinese investments, Mr Li said he hopes Chinese firms will also receive fair treatment abroad.

“We also hope that foreign governments can view in an objective light the cooperation between Chinese companies and their foreign partners based on contractual consent,” he said.

“In other words, China will further open up, and China's opening up measures will not come on a one-time basis.”