By David Lawder
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Bilateral investment talks between the United States and China “continue to be productive,” the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said on Friday after the two sides exchanged new offers this week.
A USTR spokeswoman said U.S. and Chinese negotiators exchanged revised “negative lists” of sectors that would stay off-limits from foreign investment as they try to reach a deal for a bilateral investment treaty.
“China will need to demonstrate the substantial liberalisation of its investment market, ensure that U.S. firms can compete on a level playing field, and address other key priorities to facilitate the progress and successful conclusion of a mutually beneficial and high standard BIT,” the USTR spokeswoman said in a statement.
Obama administration officials and U.S. companies have complained that China has over 100 sectors of its economy closed to U.S. investment and that these must be narrowed substantially to reach a treaty deal.
Chinese officials have said that U.S. security reviews of Chinese acquisitions of American firms are too onerous, particularly for investment in high-technology sectors.
The USTR statement did not specify any new sectors that China had offered to open to U.S. investment or divulge other details of Beijing’s latest offer.
U.S. businesses have complained about Chinese ownership restrictions in key areas such as financial services, health insurance, agriculture, and audio-visual, while the Chinese side has complained about limited market access in certain U.S. sectors such as transportation, radio communications, natural resources and high-technology companies.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Thursday said that “the jury is still out” on the merits of China’s latest negative list, and that Beijing’s negotiating stance in the bilateral investment treaty talks were “one important barometer” in China’s commitment to reform its economy and open it to foreign competition..
Lew also has said that time was running short to complete a treaty deal during the final months of the Obama administration and that an optimum time to reach an agreement was prior to a G20 leaders summit in China in early September.
(Reporting by David Lawder; Writing by Eric Walsh; Editing by Eric Beech and Andrew Hay)