European chamber calls on China to boost reforms

Updated: 2015-03-18 16:56

By Chen Yingqun(

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The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China expressed hope Wednesday that two recently concluded legislative and political sessions in China will provide renewed vigor to the nation's reform drive, that market access will be increased and protectionist policies held in check.

"The Chinese government needs to move forward with reforming the Chinese economy and not stop halfway," says Joerg Wuttke, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, in a news release.

"A greater degree of market opening, in particular an efficient and timely nationwide rollout of the negative-list approach, is what we would like to see."

The "two sessions" refer to the annual meetings of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, China's top political advisory body.

Premier Li Keqiang's recent assessment of China's current economic situation – dubbed the "new normal" – includes a GDP target set at around 7 per cent for this year.

Wuttke says this candid approach has helped to clarify the government's vision for the Chinese economy, and should help European companies plan their business operations in China more efficiently.

"We hope that China's economic slowdown strengthens the Chinese government's resolve to pursue the crucial structural reforms outlined in the Third Plenum's decision," Wuttke says.

He was referring to decisive economic reforms outlined during the Third Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of Communist Party of China in 2013.

"There now needs to be tangible improvements to China's investment environment – something that certain recent policy enactments have cast doubt over," Wuttke adds.

Wuttke says the European chamber was encouraged by Li's declaration during the NPC's annual Government Work Report that restrictions on foreign investment would be cut by half.

However welcome this statement was, though, it must be balanced against reality, the chamber's statement says. It notes that the new Foreign Investment Catalogue, which will come into effect on April 10, includes "few positive changes from the November 2014 draft, on which the chamber had commented extensively".

The news release says that given the Chinese government's prioritization of people-centered development, it is "particularly disappointing to note that sectors such as education and healthcare have still not been sufficiently liberalized, and were even tightened in the final version of the catalogue".

The European chamber statement also expressed hope that policies intended to limit foreign participation in China's economy due to national security concerns – such as the proposed Counter-terrorism Law – "will be held in check so that they do not become detrimental to China's efforts to transition toward a more innovation-based economy."