European firms say China business ‘more difficult’

Among the litany of complaints for European companies were the uncertain legal environment, higher cost of labor, regulatory headaches and the ‘Great Firewall’ that censors much of the global Internet. Above, the border city of Dandong, in China's northeast Liaoning province. (AFP)
Updated 20 June 2018
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European firms say China business ‘more difficult’

  • Among the litany of complaints for European companies were the uncertain legal environment, higher cost of labor, regulatory headaches
  • The survey found 48 percent of European firms felt it had become “more difficult” to do business in the past 12 months

BEIJING: European companies complain they still face a difficult business climate in China despite Beijing’s pledges of openness, with about half saying it has become tougher in the past year, according to a survey released Wednesday.
The study comes as President Xi Jinping looks to portray the world’s number two as being at the forefront of the globalization while trade tensions with the United States rise.
“The root of the tension we see today starts with a China that has not opened up and reformed as quickly as it promised in its rhetoric,” said Mats Harborn, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China.
Among the litany of complaints for European companies were the uncertain legal environment, higher cost of labor, regulatory headaches and the “Great Firewall” that censors much of the global Internet.
“As its economy matures, the longstanding inefficiencies in China’s business environment are rendered all the more glaring,” according to the report by the EU chamber.
Harborn told reporters that the “regulatory environment is actually holding the economy back.”
“Time is running out for China to continue its reform process,” Harborn said, noting 2018 must be the year Beijing acts.
Instead Beijing has backtracked in some areas. New cybersecurity regulations make it more costly to jump the firewall, requiring businesses to sign up for expensive and problem-plagued government-approved virtual private networks that allow users to circumvent filters and access the global Internet.
Two-thirds of companies believe that censorship and blocking of certain sites has a negative impact on their business, while only 23 percent say the state-sanctioned VPNs are efficient.
This is the “great contradiction,” said Harborn.
“We have China which claims itself a leader in globalization, talking of the importance of integration, but the cybersecurity law is creating problems.”
The survey found 48 percent of European firms felt it had become “more difficult” to do business in the past 12 months.
And a fifth say they have been victims of forced technology transfers, a practice denounced fiercely by Washington as it carries out a probe on the issue while threatening tariffs in retaliation.
And there is little optimism for the future as nearly half of European businesses believe barriers to business will harden in the coming five years, while a quarter believe they will never witness a “significant opening” of the market.
But progress was reported in some areas.
Some 61 percent of the 532 European companies polled by the chamber said they are “optimistic” about the growth of their sector in the country, compared with 55 percent the previous year.
Just over half of surveyed companies, 51 percent, consider that they are treated “unfavorably” compared to their local competitors, compared to 54 percent last year.


Trump threatens tariffs on all $505 billion of Chinese imports

Updated 20 July 2018
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Trump threatens tariffs on all $505 billion of Chinese imports

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said in an interview released Friday he is willing to hit all Chinese goods imported to the US with tariffs if necessary.
“I’m ready to go 500,” the Republican leader told the US network CNBC, referring to the $505.5 billion in Chinese imports accepted into the US in 2017.
“I’m not doing this for politics, I’m doing this to do the right thing for our country,” Trump said.
“We’ve been ripped off by China for a long time,” he added.
After weeks of apparently fruitless negotiations, the US early this month imposed 25 percent tariffs on approximately $34 billion of Chinese mechanical and technological products — sparking an immediate response from Beijing, which said it would hit back dollar for dollar.
China accused the US of starting the “largest trade war in economic history.”
A second tranche of $16 billion in products is under review and could soon be added to the US measures.
In the full interview released Friday Trump reiterated his claim that the US is “being taken advantage of” on issues including trade policy.
“I don’t want them to be scared. I want them to do well,” the US president said of China. “I really like President Xi a lot. But it was very unfair.”
The US-China spat is the largest and broadest of several trade fights picked by Trump.
The growing share of international trade under threat has raised the prospect the escalating trade war could harm the global economy by disrupting companies supply chains, pushing firms to hold off on investments and making goods more expensive for consumers.
In excerpts of the interview released on Thursday Trump had broken with the long-established executive branch practice of not commenting on the Federal Reserve’s decisions out of respect for its independence.
“I’m not thrilled,” Trump told the network in an interview excerpt aired Thursday. “Because we go up and every time you go up they want to raise rates again.”