China easing rules for US business travellers; approvals in 10 days

Beijing adopting Xi's direction on upgrading 'fast-track' travel plans, says Chinese envoy

WASHINGTON • China will cut to no more than 10 days the time required for approval of travel by US business executives, its Ambassador to the United States has said, promising to turn "an attentive ear" to concerns raised by businesses.

Mr Qin Gang, who arrived in the United States in July, told a dinner hosted by the US-China Business Council on Thursday that Beijing would also work to make Covid-19 testing more convenient and allow executives to work during quarantine.

Mr Qin said Beijing was adopting President Xi Jinping's direction on upgrading "fast-track" travel arrangements, a response to US concerns about the resumption of business travel announced after Mr Xi and US President Joe Biden held a virtual meeting last month.

"With the upgraded arrangement, the time needed for travel approval will be shorter, no more than 10 working days," Mr Qin said.

He said that Beijing would share its specific work plan "very soon" with the US Centres for Disease Control.

He also said that Beijing was committed to implementing the spirit of the recent Xi-Biden meeting and injecting "more positive energy into our relations".

Mr Qin called for strengthened cooperation in manufacturing, financial services and the energy sector.

He also repeated Beijing's call for Washington to abolish additional tariffs imposed on Chinese goods by the administration of former president Donald Trump.

Mr Marc Allen, chief strategy officer of Boeing, welcomed the announcement of fast-track travel, and a separate decision by China's aviation authority to issue an airworthiness directive on the Boeing 737 Max that will pave the way for the model's return to service in China after more than 2½ years.

China's aviation regulator expects that airlines will resume commercial operations with the Boeing 737 Max by the end of this year or the beginning of next year, an official said yesterday.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China, which was the first regulator globally to ground the Max in March 2019 after two deadly crashes, on Thursday provided airlines with a list of fixes required before the Max returns to service.

That move, which Boeing described as an "important milestone", sent its shares 7.5 per cent higher, pushing the Dow Jones index up 1.73 per cent in its biggest one-day percentage gain since March.

At Thursday's dinner, US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Jose Fernandez repeated, however, a litany of US complaints about China's business practices and stressed the need for a level playing field for US companies.

He reiterated US concerns about human rights, including alleged forced labour, in China's Xinjiang region and highlighted US government warnings to business about the risks of operating in Hong Kong.

He told the business leaders operating in China they should keep in mind that they are "not bystanders in the broader economic and strategic relationship".

"Above all, please be mindful how your activities can affect US national security and the fundamental values that we all hold dear," he said.

On Tuesday, Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Xie Feng, in a virtual dialogue with business representatives from the US, urged American companies to further promote Sino-US cooperation and push the US government to stop reckless trade and technology wars.

"I hope you will be pioneers and cheerleaders for stabilising and promoting China-US relations," Mr Xie said.

He cautioned that disrupting international trade rules may bring some benefits for the time being, but would eventually upset the cart and rattle markets, and it will not do any good to anybody.

Be it decoupling, supply cut-off, "a small yard surrounded by high fences" or trying to form small supply chain blocs against China, they all violate the laws of the market, disrupt international division of labour, disturb global industrial and supply chains, and try to divide the world economy into two parallel systems, he noted.

"The business community will have to bear double costs, in which situation how could they enjoy efficiency or benefits? I hope that our friends in the business community can take a clear stand against politicising economic and trade issues and abusing the concept of national security," he added.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2021, with the headline China easing rules for US business travellers; approvals in 10 days. Subscribe