China's Xi stands firm during US visit

2012-02-15 07:43
Washington - Chinese vice president Xi Jinping stood his ground on Tuesday against criticism from his American hosts over Beijing's currency and business practices, insisting China was acting on US concerns and hoped for similar treatment from Washington.

Reacting to remarks from US vice president Joe Biden, his host in the United States, China's leader-in-waiting did not mince his words in pushing back against a laundry list of complaints about doing business in his country.

"With regard to the US concerns regarding trading balance, IPR (intellectual property rights) protection, indigenous innovation and investment environment, the Chinese side has taken steps to address them and will continue to do so," he told US business chiefs while Biden sat by his side.

Doing business in China

With US corporate chiefs including Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs listening, Xi pointed out that they had all profited handsomely from doing business in China and Beijing had some issues of its own that it would like tackled.

"We hope that the US side will adopt the same positive attitude and take credible steps as soon as possible to address Chinese concerns on lifting restrictions on high-tech exports to China, and providing a level playing field for Chinese companies investing in America," he said.

US companies hope to press Xi during their meeting on the need to stamp out the counterfeiting of US goods and easing restrictions on American corporate investment in China.

Biden, noting that the Chinese currency had appreciated but was "still substantially undervalued in our view", highlighted a number of concerns:

"We have work to do, especially on issues like discriminatory subsidies and financing, protecting intellectual property and trade secrets, and ending the practice of making the transfer of technology a requirement for doing business."

Tax reform

He did deliver some good news, noting the Chinese had indicated they would move forward this year with tax reform that would boost Chinese consumption and import demand - key goals sought by President Barack Obama, who hopes this will lift US exports and hiring as he seeks re-election in November.

"China's also just told us it will open the third-party liability auto insurance market to foreign companies, an important step in the reforming of the financial sector," he said. US companies welcomed that news.

"It is a step that will open many more options for Chinese consumers. Certainly it will also expand opportunities for US insurers," said Bob Vastine, president of the Coalition of Service Industries.

Biden did not specify what tax reforms the Chinese government might take up.

Chinese policymakers and experts say Beijing has no choice but to push ahead with tax reform to achieve its key short-term goal of improving corporate competitiveness and stoking consumer spending.

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