US business lobby asks China to play fair, warns of consumer boycott danger

BEIJING: China should implement its commitments to equal treatment for foreign business and abandon “implicit” guidance to replace foreign products with domestic alternatives, the American Chamber of Commerce in China said today.

In an annual white paper, the chamber, also known as AmCham, which represents 900 companies, also called on the United States and China to communicate more and cooperate on climate change and public health.

The relationship between the world’s two biggest economies deteriorated rapidly over the past few years over issues ranging from trade to China’s response to Covid-19.

When ties worsen, US firms see poorer implementation of regulations promising equal treatment for foreign business, affecting investment project approvals and market access, said Greg Gilligan, chairman of AmCham China.

American companies were also “rightfully concerned” about the possibility of consumer boycotts in China and needed to do scenario planning for it, he said.

In March Sweden’s H&M and other foreign brands met with a furious online backlash and boycotts after they raised concerns about forced labour in China’s western Xinjiang region.

Foreign businesses in China have long complained about limited market access, opaque regulatory processes, the favouring of domestic champions and state-owned companies, and weakness in intellectual property protection.

Beijing has repeatedly said it treats foreign and domestic firms equally and welcomes foreign investment. The government is meanwhile also trying to spur domestic innovation and reduce reliance on foreign technology and markets.

Legislation promising equal treatment for foreign and domestic companies is only unevenly implemented, said the paper, which also called for emerging sectors like cloud computing to be opened up to foreign companies.

President Joe Biden says competition with China is the greatest foreign policy challenge the US faces. Democrats and Republicans alike have moved toward a harder line on Beijing.

US-China tensions were seen as a challenge to doing business in China for 78% of companies polled by AmCham, according to a survey released in March. – Reuters

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