Officials are soliciting ideas to build a level playing ground for all businesses, domestic and overseas.
“China should combine foreign investment law with company law, which will give national treatment to overseas companies on the Chinese mainland and pave the way for the country’s progress in corporate governance,” said Wang Zhile, a senior researcher on foreign investment at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, a think tank of the Ministry of Commerce.
The National People’s Congress Standing Committee has said it will “speed up” research on a new corporate legal framework and will propose a draft when “conditions are ripe”.
Qiu Guangling, director of the Department of Foreign Investment Administration at the Ministry of Commerce, said recently, “The revision this time aims to unify domestic laws on foreign investments and will focus on the equal treatment of foreign and domestic investments, strengthening security review and advancing the reforms of foreign investment regulation.”
In a recent statement, the US-China Business Council called for China’s policymakers to consider eliminating terminology such as “foreign-invested enterprises”.
“Continued use of this term invites differential treatment for various types of domestic enterprises versus others, based solely on ownership. Government regulators should act independently and transparently and ensure that all domestic enterprises－including foreign invested enterprises－are treated equally and allowed to compete fairly. Efforts to build ‘national champions’ in certain sectors should not include measures that discriminate against other domestic legal persons,” the statement said.
In a comprehensive reform plan issued late last year, China’s central government pledged to expand investment access, unify laws and regulations on domestic and foreign investments, while keeping stable, transparent and predictable policies on foreign investment.
In the China (Shanghai) Free Trade Pilot Zone, the application of the three foreign investment laws－except for certain restrictions－has been suspended.
Jessie Tang, a partner at Jones Day’s Beijingoffice, said that the investment laws helped regulate foreign-invested enterprises.
“When China first opened its market in the late 1970s, foreign investors hesitated to enter the China market at that time as they were reasonably concerned about whether their investments would be safe in China. The three laws gave foreign investors a certain degreeof confidence that Chinese authorities would regulate foreign-invested enterprises pursuant to the law and, as clearly provided in the three laws, the legal rights and interests of foreign investors in China would be protected accordingly,” Tang said.
China is the world’s second-largest recipient of foreign direct investment. Non-financial foreign direct investment rose 5.25 percent year-on-year to $117 billion in 2013, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
Three fundamental laws governing foreign investment:
The Law on Sino-Foreign Equity Joint Ventures was adopted on July 1, 1979. It was first amended in April 1990 and again in March 15, 2001.
Law on Foreign-Capital Enterprises was enacted on April 12, 1986, and amended in October 2000.
Law on Sino-Foreign Cooperative Joint Ventures was adopted on April 13, 1988, and amended in October 2000.
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