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US calls on China to bring down barriers to foreign businesses

US and China

​Senior US officials have again called on China to lift perceived restrictions on foreign businesses, citing growing concerns over the increased complexity of the regulatory environment.

The move comes amid the introduction of a new law from the Chinese government that applies to foreign non-governmental groups operating in the country.

The legislation was passed by China's parliament in April, despite being the subject of criticism and lobbying from businesses across the West.

The law brings the operations of non-governmental organisations under the remit of the Ministry of Public Security, giving authorities a greater say over their finances and work.

The US Secretary of State John Kerry has already expressed his opposition to the new law, stating that it could have a particularly profound effect on on-profit health care groups that are looking to do business in China.

However, in a press conference marking the end of two days of high-level talks between the two countries in Beijing, Kerry said that China still "intends to remain open" and "does not see that these laws are going to be applied in any way whatsoever that affects the ability to open up and to do business".

"We have to sort of show some patience, if you will, to see how in fact it is interpreted," he added. "We could not have registered our concerns more directly or forcefully."

A number of foreign companies have already been the subject of government investigations in China, with the country also rolling out a new national security law that intends to limit the use of overseas technology.

Business groups from the US claim the measures are geared towards favouring Chinese firms, making it more difficult for foreign firms to compete.

According to Reuters, US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told Chinese and American businesses and officials: "Concerns about the business climate have grown in recent years, with foreign businesses confronting a more complex regulatory environment and questioning whether they are welcome in China."

"Our two governments have a responsibility to foster conditions that facilitate continued and increased investment, trade, and commercial cooperation."

"This means enacting policies that encourage healthy competition, ensuring predictability and transparency in the policy-making and regulatory process, protecting intellectual property rights, and removing discriminatory investment barriers. These policies are vital as China seeks to build on its economic progress in recent decades."

In an attempt to ease the concerns of foreign businesses, China has insisted that it is keen on welcoming the companies to the country, which is currently the second-largest economy in the world.

State Councillor Yang Jiechi, said: "We are comprehensively deepening reform, expanding, opening up, and our economy is expected to maintain long-term medium-high growth rates."