Business / Macro

Obama administration to continue investment treaty talks with China: treasury secretary

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-10-08 12:44

WASHINGTON - US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew on Thursday said that the Obama administration will continue pushing forward negotiations on a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) with China so that it would be as close to done as possible before President Barack Obama leaves office.

"We had extensive discussions at our Strategic and Economic Dialogue and on the margins of the G20 meetings. There're ongoing negotiations, there're exchanges of offers," Lew said of BIT talks at an event hosted by the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) on the sidelines of the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

"Fundamentally, it has to be a high quality agreement, there're offers of (market) access at both directions in a meaningful way if it's going to come to closure," Lew said.

A total of 28 rounds of BIT talks have been held since China and the United States started negotiations in 2008 to increase mutual investment, which only accounted for a tiny share of their respective overseas investment.

The two sides have recently exchanged the third revised and significantly improved negative list offers of sectors that remain closed to foreign investment, and they committed to further intensify the negotiation with a view to concluding a mutually beneficial and high-standard investment treaty.

Rory MacFarquhar, a visiting fellow at the PIIE and a former special assistant to President Obama for international economics, told Xinhua that there might be "more than one more round" of BIT negotiations before Obama steps down in January 2017.

"I think there's interest on both sides to come as very close as possible to conclude a real agreement that could then at least be considered by the Senate," he said, adding the Chinese side will have to "make a lot of important decisions" to reach a very good treaty with the US and get the US Senate's approval.

"We're obviously looking at the counter. It's getting shorter and shorter. So the time to really put the shoulder into it is now," Lew argued, noting "this is the best time" to continue moving forward the BIT negotiations.

"We're going to continue through the duration of our tenure trying to get it queued up so it's as close to done, if not done, as possible," he said.

The world's two largest economies have become more closely connected over the past few years, as China has become a huge and growing market for US businesses and Chinese investment in the United States has rapidly accelerated.

The investment treaty is expected to continue to expand two-way trade and investment and cement the foundation of China-US economic ties.

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