Working together is best way, Wen says
Updated: 2012-07-18 09:51
By Ding Qingfen and Chen Jia (China Daily)
China-US relationship still has vast potential, key meeting told
Despite US election rhetoric targeting China, cooperation will benefit both countries and the global economy, leaders and officials said on Tuesday.
But Washington should also loosen restrictions on Chinese investment, they said.
Surveys by both Democrats and Republicans on Monday showed that a majority of respondents felt that the US needs to toughen its China trade policies and "use every possible means to stop unfair trade practices".
Premier Wen Jiabao stressed the importance of consultation to address the trade balance during a meeting with China-US business leaders, officials and former officials in Beijing on Tuesday. Wen also highlighted the benefits of cooperation.
"For China and the US, there is more cooperation than competition, more opportunity than challenge, as we share common interests," he said.
"Both countries should try to extend cooperation. China welcomes American companies expanding investment in China and also encourages Chinese companies to actively tap the US market," Wen said.
Zhang Ping, minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, said at the meeting that "enhanced cooperation in investment between China and the US advances economic globalization and boosts commercial benefits for both countries".
And "it can also make a major contribution to the global economy," especially during the European debt crisis.
China-US economic relations have seen recent turbulence.
After reports last week that US athletes will be wearing Chinese-made uniforms at the London Olympics, Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, suggested burning the kit.
Ralph Lauren agreed to produce US outfits for the 2014 Winter Games in the US.
Nonetheless, closer cooperation is the most beneficial route, officials said.
As the world's largest developing nation and the largest developed nation, "China and the US differ from each other in terms of resources and industrial maturity, but they will be complementary in the long run", said Zeng Peiyan, a former vice-premier.
Ma Xiuhong, former vice-minister of commerce, said "companies from both countries are keen to invest".
The US is the fourth-largest source of China's FDI. Total investment in China from US firms, at the end of 2011, stood at $70 billion.
China remains a small investor in the US, although investment is rising. By the end of 2011, China's total investment in the US was less than $10 billion. The potential is vast for both countries across a range of sectors, including energy and manufacturing, Zhang said.
But he pointed out that China expects the US to improve investment access for Chinese companies and provide a level playing field.
"The potential for investment has not been fully developed," Zhang said.
Zeng agreed and highlighted problems Chinese companies are facing.
"Chinese companies face various obstacles in the US, less openness, technology export controls and a lack of transparency," he said.
"Investment imbalances easily lead to trade and economic imbalances."
There have been a number of cases where the US has barred Chinese investors. One well-publicized case saw CNOOC dropping its bid for Unocal. In another, US opposition to Anshan Iron & Steel's proposed investment in a new steel mill in Mississippi saw the deal scrapped.
These cases may be the result of unfounded fears and concerns in the US that Chinese companies would grab their technology or maybe not deliver on the job front, experts said.
But for Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce, the key obstacle for Chinese companies hoping to invest in the US is that they are not familiar with the political and economic environment there.
It is a misunderstanding that US bureaucracy and complicated management systems have hindered investment, he said.
In fact, "every state and city welcomes companies from China".
For executives whose companies have operations in the US, the US government welcomes Chinese proposals, but Chinese companies will not be successful until they get acquainted with the local market and build themselves into responsible corporations, he said.
US companies also claim that the playing field in China is not level, Donohue said.
"We hope the Chinese government purchases more products made in the US and signs investment agreement between our two countries."
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Liu Yiyu and Lan Lan contributed to this story.