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Maurice Greenberg praises China's new foreign investment law

By Kong Wenzheng and Zhang Ruinan in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-03-15 00:58
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China's foreign investment law will give more confidence to foreign investors and promote the growth of the economy, according to Maurice Greenberg, chairman and CEO of Starr Companies.

The insurance magnate told China Daily that the new law addresses some of foreign investors' major concerns and promises to resolve those issues.

The foreign investment law, which was adopted on March 15 by the National Peoples' Congress, China's top legislature, will make major changes to the operating environment for foreign companies.

Under the law, foreign companies would receive greater intellectual property protection, forced technology transfers would be forbidden and the negative list of sectors in which overseas companies can operate would be reduced.

"One of the big problems is that foreign companies, [including] US companies doing business in China, want to be treated the same way as Chinese companies," said Greenberg. "I believe that's recognized now."

"Having transparent rules and regulations that foreign investors understand and can rely on — that gives confidence to the foreign investors, and it's very good for China," he added.

Greenberg also said changing the rules will add to the growth of the economy.

"More foreign investments, more confidence in the foreign investors — that will be very good for the economy," he said.

By the end of 2018, about 960,000 foreign-invested enterprises had been set up in China, with an accumulated foreign direct investment exceeding $2.1 trillion.

China advanced to a global ranking of 46th in terms of ease of doing business last year, up from 78th place in 2017, according to the World Bank Group.

Greenberg was one of 10 foreigners awarded China's Reform Friendship Medal by President Xi Jinping last year.

He said that it's not unusual to have differences but when the two nations have differences, they need try to work them out.

He said that from a business point of view, the two countries complement each other.

"China and the US as close allies [makes for] a very safe world; China and the US having major differences is a different kind of world," Greenberg said.

Greenberg joined Starr as vice-president in 1960, consolidated a number of insurers into the company and formed the franchise into American International Group (AIG), which later became the largest insurance and financial services company in the world.

Greenberg's relationship with China started in 1975 — 15 years after he joined Starr — when he became the first executive at the company to visit China since the founding of the People's Republic.

That visit led to a partnership between Starr Companies and the People's Insurance Company of China, and Greenberg has traveled to China every year since.

In 1992, his company became the first foreign company to receive a wholly owned life insurance license in China, helping to open up the country's financial services industry to the US.

He said since China's reform and opening up, the relationship between the two peoples is now much closer.

"Compared to when I first went to China, it's totally different," said Greenberg. "There are thousands of Chinese coming to the US and thousands of Americans going to China; that didn't exist before."

"And there's more confidence between both countries and the people," he said. "The Chinese people and American people like each other, that's good for the world, good for China, and good for the US. And I'm proud to have been a part of that."

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