Sat, Mar 16, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Chinese legislature approves possible olive branch to US


Members of the Chinese People’s Armed Police stand guard at Tiananmen Square ahead of the closing of the second session of the 13th National People’s Congress in Beijing yesterday.

Photo: Bloomberg

China’s rubber-stamp legislature yesterday approved a foreign investment law that could serve as an olive branch in trade talks with the US.

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

The Chinese National People’s Congress voted 2,929 in favor of the law — with eight against and eight abstentions — barely three months after a first draft was debated, an unusually quick turnaround for the legislature, which meets once per year.

The passage came as US and Chinese negotiators hold complex talks aimed at resolving a months-long trade war that has pounded businesses with tariffs on US$360 billion in two-way commerce.

US President Donald Trump on Thursday said that the negotiations should wrap up within four weeks, adding: “We are getting what we have to get.”

China’s top trade negotiator, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He (劉鶴), held telephone talks with US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who China’s state-run Xinhua news agency said made “substantial progress.”

The bill would eliminate the requirement for foreign enterprises to transfer proprietary technology to Chinese joint venture partners and protect against “illegal government interference” — major sticking points in the trade negotiations.

The legislation is to go into effect on Jan. 1 next year, Xinhua said.

China is also to amend its intellectual property law and “introduce a punitive damages mechanism to ensure that all infringements will be seriously dealt with,” Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) told reporters at the end of the legislature’s two-week session.

The changes would “ensure violators have no place to hide,” he said.

Under the bill, foreign investors would enjoy the same privileges as Chinese companies in most sectors, except those placed on “negative lists,” officials said.

China would soon announce shorter negative lists and continue to trim them in future, “increasing the scope of what is not prohibited,” Li said.

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