Business in China can’t progress without reforms, openness: Xi

Chinese President Xi Jinping Wednesday addressed Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, billionaire investor Warren Buffett and other top American and Chinese business leaders, vowing that his country would work to remove barriers to foreign investment and improve intellectual property protections.

Chinese President Xi Jinping,, center, tours the Boeing assembly line in Everett

Chinese President Xi Jinping, center, tours Boeing assembly line in Everett

Xi’s conference with the business leaders in Seattle was part of a busy day. He also toured the Boeing production facility in Everett, the sprawling suburban Microsoft campus and was set to visit a high school in Tacoma.

Protesters and supporters of Xi holding signs in English and Chinese lined the streets outside Microsoft’s Redmond campus and also waited outside the high school.

 Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Jack Ma of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba also were among the 30 executives who attended a closed-door discussion Wednesday moderated by former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson that preceded Xi’s address.

Though he acknowledged difficulties as China shifts its economy from one driven by exports to one driven by a growing middle class, Xi told the group China’s economy will maintain a “steady medium and high speed of growth for a long time.”

“China will open up still wider to the outside world,” Xi said through an interpreter. “Without reform, there will be no driving force; without opening up, there will be no progress. … There is good news and I believe there will be more good news in the future.”

China will “stand firm” to protect intellectual property rights, he added.

Xi attributed the Chinese economy’s recent slowdown to three factors — world economic problems, proactive Chinese efforts at regulation and “protracted structural problems” in China.

A big item of concern for the American CEOs is a treaty that would provide a framework for broader investment in the economy of each nation.

All of the American CEOs participating in the forum, organized by the Paulson Institute, signed a letter to Xi and US President Barack Obama urging them to support such a treaty, and they heard encouraging words from Xi on the topic Wednesday.

“Once concluded, the treaty will further ease market access and put in place more open and transparent market rules,” he said.

Bilateral investment treaties provide rules for companies doing business in other countries. The agreements can help ensure the rights of foreign investors are protected and that foreign companies operate on a level playing field with domestic ones.

An agreement with China could open up more of that nation’s massive market to American companies, provide clearer rules for Chinese investment in the US, and create jobs in both countries, supporters say.

“The reason that the US and China have a nearly $600 billion trading relationship, large amounts of US investment in China, and increasing amounts of Chinese direct investment here, is because there are many areas where our national and business interests align,” Paulson told Xi at the forum, according to a copy of his remarks.

Representatives from Twitter, Facebook and Google were notably missing from the event. China blocks those companies’ websites.

 



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