US Ambassador to China Max Baucus met with leaders of AmCham SW China and selected member companies while visiting Chengdu on August 25th. Ambassador Baucus and accompanying staff from the US diplomatic mission in Beijing and Chengdu solicited input from local members of the US business community in Chengdu, regarding issues of great concern to them in US-China relations.
Among the many issues raised by member companies were equal market access for American companies operating in the China, difficulties created by protectionist trade policies, and restrictive regulations that specifically target foreign companies in certain sectors. These issues were raised in regards to consumable products being imported, as well as Chinese policies limiting the operating scope of foreign companies in sectors such as insurance and financial services.
Concerns were raised about transparency such as, being able to access written regulations to obtain information about permitting and licensing procedures. Additionally, members would like to know how to contact local officials to give feedback about economic policy issues. Those that had experienced instability in local infrastructure in the past, were unable to convey their complaints to local officials. The Ambassador pledged to try to support American companies by bringing such issues to the attention of Chinese officials in the future.
Another major issue raised by members in the discussion was the effect of the general economic slowdown in the country on the business climate. The rising costs of qualified labor and overcapacity in certain market sectors have put a damper on the prospects of several industries. This has reduced optimism about future growth. In addition to the unequal treatment compared with Chinese companies, these issues are especially concerning to US enterprises weighing the possibility of expanding in the Chinese market. Further issues noted in the discussions included the importance of continuing to improve IPR protections as well as the rising threat of cybersecurity threats to US business operating in China.
Despite the challenges ahead, both AmCham members and the Ambassador expressed general optimism about the future of US China business relations. The Ambassador discussed the ongoing negotiations between the US and Chinese regarding a comprehensive bilateral trade agreement (BIT), which is currently being discussed between the two countries. Such an agreement would provide a framework for treatment of businesses engaged in foreign direct investment (FDI) in both countries, and could potentially serve as a vehicle for increased cooperation in a number of areas.
AmCham SW China was honored to have the opportunity to speak to the highest level of diplomatic representation from the US in China. We look forward to facilitating the dialog between US businesses and government leaders in the future.