China approves foreign investment law, possible US olive branch

China foreign investment law: Bill aims to ease global concerns

China-US trade war: New Chinese law seeks to address concerns

Beijing sees the law as a tool to attract more foreign investment as its economy slows, with the government last week presenting a growth target of 6.0 to 6.5% this year, down from 6.6% growth in 2018.

The National People's Congress approved the final draft of the law first presented to the Chinese government in 2015.

Some law experts and business consultants have expressed skepticism about how effective the law will be in protecting foreign firms from compelled technology transfers, given a lack of rule of law in China.

China has promised billions of dollars in tax cuts and infrastructure spending to help businesses and protect jobs, as economic momentum is expected to cool further due to softer domestic demand and the trade war with the United States.

Washington and Beijing have been locked in a tit-for-tat tariff battle as USA presses China for an end to practices and policies it argues have given Chinese firms unfair advantages, including subsidising of industry, limits on access for foreign companies and alleged theft of intellectual property.

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China will also amend its intellectual property law and "introduce a punitive damages mechanism to ensure that all infringements will be seriously dealt with", Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told reporters at the end of the parliament's two-week session.

These laws which were passed during the early stages of China's reform and opening up are no longer relevant in today's Chinese market and the new FIL is tailored to meet a higher standard of opening-up under the current new circumstances.

Eric Liu, managing partner for Zhao Sheng, Linklaters" joint operation partner in China, said "the proposed changes will definitely be welcomed by foreign market participants and lead the next upsurge in foreign investment. "It doesn't matter what the Chinese government puts on paper. We have to prepare more and we have reserved policy room [to address uncertainties]", Li told a news conference after the annual parliament meeting ended.

The law includes provisions on national security, which some firms worry could be used as cover to shut global businesses out of certain projects or to confiscate investments altogether.

But it said some provisions were "still quite general and do not address a number of the persistent concerns of foreign companies or foreign-invested enterprises in China".

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The law will come into effect on 1 January 2020.

"Its vague wording further adds to the legal uncertainty that the law creates for foreign companies", it said. "More than anything else, foreign companies want equal treatment and opportunities", said the group's president, Mats Harborn.

The legislation aims to address long-running grievances from foreign firms, including stronger protections for intellectual property, but the United States and European chambers of commerce voiced concerns that they were not given enough time to provide their input.

Recently, some ruling party officials, scholars and journalists in Beijing have started to rap Xi's China-centered policies for complicating relations with the US administration of President Donald Trump and jeopardizing solid economic expansion.

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