Business / Economy

China, US still hopeful of wrapping up investment talks under Obama administration

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-09-12 10:40

WASHINGTON - China and the United States are still hopeful that the two countries could conclude negotiations on a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) under the Obama administration, a former Chinese official has said.

The Chinese negotiating team will come to Washington DC for a new round of BIT talks with the US side in the coming week, China's former chief negotiator for World Trade Organization (WTO) entry Long Yongtu said Saturday here at a lunch event about China-US trade relations hosted by the Center for China and Globalization, a Chinese leading social think tank.

"That means the Obama government still wants to get it done before he leaves office," Long told former US trade officials and China experts with Washington-DC based think tanks.

In China, the BIT talks enjoy strong and wide support from the top leadership to the private sector, said the former Chinese vice minister for trade, adding that "there's a good chance" that the two countries could wrap up the eight years of talks under the Obama administration.

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 "made further progress in all aspects of the negotiation", according to the outcome list released after a recent meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Barack Obama in Hangzhou, China.

China and the United States commit to "further intensify the negotiation with a view to concluding a mutually beneficial and high-standard treaty" , the outcome list said.

While provisions regarding the State-owned enterprises remain a sticking point in the BIT talks, Long believed the two sides would "find a way" to reach a deal.

He also suggested that American trade negotiators should be "a little bit less aggressive" trying to manage specific issues in the BIT negotiations, but he didn't elaborate further.

As part of the so-called second-track dialogue of China-US relations, Long had met campaign teams of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in the past two days, trying to figure out the future direction of bilateral relations after the general election in November.

Long expressed his concern about the rise of anti-trade and anti-globalization in the current US presidential campaign. But he believed the forces of globalization "remain strong" with the fast development of new technologies, particularly the Internet, and transnational corporations, which bring investment and trade to every corner of the world.

With the help of the Internet, many small and medium-sized enterprises have also started to join the forces of globalization, which will reinforce the trend toward globalization, he said.

China will remain a driver of globalization and continue pursuing the policy of opening up to the outside world, the former Chinese official said, noting that a significant majority of Chinese people have benefited from that process.

Chinese government also sets up a fund to assist those unemployment workers hurt by certain trade agreements, Long said. "This is the government responsibility. If we don' t do that, people will be against trade agreements and globalization."

"I think we have done it quite well. That' s why in China we do not hear strong voices against globalization, we do not hear strong voices against opening up to the outside world," he said, suggesting the United States could learn from China to help those workers hurt by trade agreements and globalization.

"It's not the fault of those protesters against trade agreements. It's the fault of the government which does not do sufficiently to address those issues," he said.

Reflecting back on China' s accession to the WTO in 2001, Long said China's entry into the WTO has not only brought tremendous benefits to China but also brought significant benefits to the United States and other countries.

China has become the largest export market of American agricultural goods, helping create at least 160,000 jobs in the United States, he said, adding that the two countries should continue expanding cooperation in trade and investment.

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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