South China Businesses say Enough is Enough

Foreign business and Guangdong provincial officials are strongly suggesting that China and the US return to the negotiation table.

Deputy Director General Department of Commerce of Guangdong Province Chen Yuehua is hoping for a quick and beneficial solution in the best interest of both nations. Chen said at the 2019 American Chamber of Commerce in South China’s Asia Pacific Business Summit in Guangzhou that a joint effort between the two governments and other institutions can write a new chapter for mutual developement.

Charles Freeman, US Chamber of Comerce Senior Vice President for Asia, echoed Chen’s recomendation. “Tarrrifs are not helping anyone. Perhaps it was useful of the administration to send a wakeup call, but we are pretty sure the Chinese goverment has woken up. It’s time to get back to the table and finish this so we all can get back to business,” Freemen said.

Earlier this year, 2019 State of Business in South China study demonstrates that, at the present, 78 percent of AmCham South China membership with investments in South China are primarily engaged in the production of goods and services in China for the Chinese market. Many of the components and materials used in such production are imported from the US. Therefore, the more than 2,300 members of the American Chamber of Commerce in South China, who account for 40 percent of all US-China business, trade and investments, represent a substantial piece of the larger part of the US-China relations.

Freeman, a former assistant US Trade Representative for China Affairs and principal US trade negotiator with China, said the US-China trading partnership is the largest in the world and continues to expect a yearly 3.4 percent yearly growth in spite of the continued trade conflicts between the two countries.

Director Chen said that pushing forward the liberation of minds is important to China’s future. “Joint efforts between the two governments and institutions can write a new chapter for mutual development,” Chen said.

Dr. Michael Enright, who taught at the Harvard Business School before moving on to the University of Hong Kong, said that although the relationship is ongoing, it was originally based on a misunderstanding. “We thought that [a relationship between China and the US] would help China enter the international community, but it was assumed China’s system would change to be more similar to ours. In reality, each side is working in their own systems.”

Every once in a while, according to Enright, the two countries have to renegotiate their differences. These issues have been developing since China’s entrance of the World Trade Organization in 2001. “Now, we come together with a better understanding of each other’s sides. We are less likely to have false expectations going forward,” he added.

Enright noted that several major provisions in the new Foreign Investment Law have changed the nature of opportunities for foreign businesses operating in China. The new law totally changed the environment of those already not on negative list and streamlines the process to open the doors for those entering the market.

Enright said that perhaps the most important provision of the new law was the creation of a new framework for foreign companies to raise complaints when they believe they have been discriminated against. This provision, first publicly suggested by the American Chamber of Commerce in South China’s in the 2019 White Paper and Special Report, allows for a more nonpartial decision making process. 

AmCham South China President Dr. Harley Seyedin said, “I must say that we are extremely happy that our recommendation for the establishment of a new judicial mechanism for foreign company complaints was included in the new Foreign Investment law.”

Seyedin said that conflict between the two greatest economies in the hisotory of the world is inevitable, but he is confident that the US and China can bring the trade talks to a conclusion if officials from both countries remain committed to the cause. The future will remain truly bright for foreign business and investment in China, Seyedin added.