China tries to reassure foreign companies, promises openness

Tuo Zhen, spokesperson for the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China speaks during a press conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. Communists party leaders from across the country have gathered in the Chinese capital for the five yearly Party Congress where Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to get a second term as party leader. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

A spokesman for China's ruling Communist Party has promised Beijing will open its markets further and tried to reassure foreign companies that are increasingly frustrated with regulation and business conditions

BEIJING — A spokesman for China's ruling Communist Party on Tuesday promised Beijing will open its markets further and tried to reassure foreign companies amid mounting U.S. and European trade complaints.

Speaking at the start of a key political meeting, Tuo Zhen said the party will "expand our opening" and repeated official promises to protect the "legitimate rights and interests" of foreign investors.

No major policy changes are expected out of the ruling party's twice-a-decade congress, which is due to appoint President Xi Jinping to a second five-year term as leader. But companies and investors are watching for indications of policy direction.

Beijing faces complaints by the governments of U.S. President Donald Trump and the European Union that it hampers market access in violation of its free-trade commitments. Trump has ordered an investigation into whether Beijing is improperly requiring foreign companies to hand over technology in exchange for market access.

Chinese leaders are trying to reassure foreign companies that have expressed increasing frustration about operating conditions. Investment into the country declined by 1.2 percent in the first seven months of the year, breaking a series of annual double-digit gains.

"We will support the basic national policy of opening up and continue to expand our opening to the outside," Tuo said at a news conference.

He also tried to defuse concern about a technology plan dubbed "Made in China 2025" that calls for developing Chinese competitors in electric cars and other fields. Business groups say it would exclude foreign competitors from promising industries.

"'Made in China 2025" and its related policies apply equally to all domestic and foreign enterprises in China," Tuo said.

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