EU: It's Time For China To Open Gov't Contracts

"We need to see the same welcome in China as we give to Chinese companies in Europe," said EU Internal Markets Commissioner Michel Barnier.

BEIJING (AP) — A European trade envoy called on Beijing on Wednesday to make a more ambitious offer to open its market for government purchases of technology and other goods to foreign suppliers.

China pledged to join a global treaty that extends free trade rules to government purchases when it joined the World Trade Organization a decade ago. But U.S. and European officials and businesses say it is offering too little market access.

Any commitment by China must apply to local and provincial governments, said EU Internal Markets Commissioner Michel Barnier, a day after meeting China's finance minister.

Barnier wouldn't give any details of China's latest — its second — offer to join the so-called Government Procurement Agreement but said it's "not yet at the level of ambition that we want to see."

"When dealing with China you need to also look at the number of provinces that are included in the offer," he said.

Europe and the U.S. are pressing for changes because in China the government is often the biggest customer for software, medical equipment, personal computers and other goods with high profit margins.

Foreign companies can bid for government contracts, but business groups complain they often have trouble getting information on bid requirements. They say Chinese rules often are imposed unevenly, often to the favor of local firms.

The issue is especially sensitive at a time when Western governments say they want to boost exports and bring down high unemployment by selling more technology abroad.

Business groups have long complained that Beijing hampers access to banking, construction and other industries in violation of free-trade principles. More recently, they say it might be trying to push foreign competitors out of promising fields such as clean energy.

"We need to see the same welcome in China as we give to Chinese companies in Europe," Barnier said.

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