China Aims To Treat Foreign Companies As ‘Equals’

The government recently lifted 30 barriers to China's manufacturing, mining and service sectors.

U.S. firms looking to invest in China could receive an easier welcome in coming years as the country increasingly levels the playing field between domestic operations and foreign companies.

“Chinese and foreign-invested companies will be treated as equals," Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told a World Economic Forum meeting last week. “We are nurturing new drivers of growth and reducing the burden on companies by widening market access and cutting taxes and administrative fees."

Reuters reported that the government recently lifted 30 barriers to China's manufacturing, mining and service sectors; 63 more remained off-limits to foreign entities.

Li noted in a separate speech last week that foreign investment in China experienced negative growth through the first five months of the year compared to the same period in 2016. The efforts to accommodate foreign investment comes as analysts predict a slowdown in China's domestic economy later this year.

Li added that workers cut from state-run coal and steel companies need jobs, along with millions of new graduates entering the workforce.

"Development is the key to resolving all our problems," Li said, according to Reuters.

In addition to reducing business costs and administrative hurdles, Li also stressed the need to move goods through the country's customs process more quickly.

Johnson Controls, the Wisconsin-based power and building systems giant, expressed optimism about Li's remarks. The company is already building two battery plants in China to take advantage of the country's growing middle class.

"I think there will be helpful changes coming," CEO Alex Molinaroli told The Wall Street Journal.

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