【英语中国】中国可借国际谈判力推改革 International treaties can once again help China advance

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2014-3-13 08:50

小艾摘要: Twenty years ago Zhu Rongji, China’s former premier, shrewdly used negotiations over his country’s accession to the World Trade Organisation to open its domestic markets to greater competition and i ...
International treaties can once again help China advance
Twenty years ago Zhu Rongji, China’s former premier, shrewdly used negotiations over his country’s accession to the World Trade Organisation to open its domestic markets to greater competition and import international standards into its legal system.

This produced more than a decade of strong growth, and gave China a greater stake in global trade.

Now China has another opportunity to advance internal reforms through international negotiations. The country is in discussions over bilateral investment treaties with the US and the EU. These would allow Chinese companies to invest and operate overseas more easily, in return for reciprocal access to Chinese markets. Such agreements can strengthen China’s economic governance and contribute to the creation of a rules-based international economy.

These negotiations should be the top priority for the high-level strategic and economic dialogue between the US and China. The proposed treaties would help foreign businesses to operate and compete fairly in China. They would improve transparency and help tackle corruption. The rules would help private enterprise in China, too.

The agreements would provide opportunities for Chinese businesses to invest abroad, which would create western jobs – while respecting limits of national security.

High-quality bilateral investment treaties need to meet five conditions. First, there must be equal treatment of foreign and domestic companies, to prevent authorities from favouring local investors. Authorities must not discriminate against foreigners when they grant licences, enforce rules or decide how much of a company an investor can own.

Second, they must prohibit arbitrary and unfair treatment of foreign investors. There must be compensation at fair market value for any nationalisation or expropriation. The treaties should ban trade-distorting measures, such as requirements for local content, exports and technology transfer.

Third, investors should be able to transfer funds in or out of the country, without delay, at a market rate of exchange.

Fourth, the agreements should have broad scope. China has recently agreed that any sector should be presumed open to foreign investment unless the treaty specifically prohibits it. This is a welcome change from the previous approach, in which investment was confined to a narrow list of authorised sectors. Still, China will need to shorten its initial list of exclusions.

Finally, any treaty needs a system of international arbitration to enforce its rules and resolve disputes. Private parties, as well as countries, should be allowed to bring claims for monetary damages. Where such mechanisms have been put in place in the past, they have worked well.

Chinese reformers believe that bilateral investment treaties will help them fight favouritism and corruption, remove onerous regulations that choke market competition, improve uneven law enforcement, and shrink the advantages enjoyed by state-owned enterprises. As one Chinese official told me, if the authorities offer equal and fair treatment to foreigners, China’s private sector can demand the same. Reformers recognise that small and medium-sized enterprises would be the biggest winners from fairly enforced economic rules.

Inevitably, talks over bilateral investment rules will take time. So did the negotiations that culminated in China’s acceptance of the WTO rules. The US and the EU should co-operate to set high standards for their respective treaties. The process can be used to engage business groups, communities and local officials who see the advantages of investment, workers and farmers who benefit from open markets, and supporters of China’s reforms.

The Obama administration needs to make this case to Congress. A strong investment treaty is a necessary building block for other high-priority trade accords, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Good strategy requires action as well as ideas. Bilateral treaties, technical though they might be, can be potent tools. They can assist China’s market reforms, deepen constructive economic ties with the west, and strengthen the international rule of law. They also offer a positive agenda to buffer inevitable differences.

The writer is a former World Bank president, US trade representative and deputy secretary of state

20年前,中国前总理朱镕基机敏地利用中国加入世贸组织(WTO)谈判的契机,促使中国国内市场出现更充分的竞争,并将国际标准引入了中国法律体系。

此举为中国经济带来了逾十年的强劲增长,并使中国在全球贸易中的份额大大增加。

如今,中国正面临另一次通过国际谈判推进内部改革的机遇。中国与美国和欧盟(EU)的双边投资协定谈判正在进行中。此类协定能让中国企业更容易在海外投资和开展业务,作为回报,协议对手方也将获准进入中国市场。这些协议能加强中国的经济治理,并有助于创造一种基于规则的国际经济。

这些谈判应成为美中高级别战略和经济对话的首要任务。拟议中的协议将有助于外国企业在公平的条件下在华开展业务和竞争。它们将提高透明度,并有助于打击腐败。此外,此类法规也有利于中国的民企。

这些协议将为中国企业提供机遇,让它们能够在遵守国家安全限制的前提下投资海外,这会在西方创造就业岗位。

高质量的双边投资协定需满足五个条件。首先,协定对外资和内资企业要一视同仁,以防当局偏向国内投资者。当局在发放许可、执行法规及确定投资者持股上限时,不能歧视外国人。

其次,协定必须禁止专断和不公正地对待外国投资者。任何国有化和征用都必须以公允的市场价值进行补偿。协议必须禁止那些会扭曲贸易的举措,比如国产化率、出口和技术转让方面的要求。

第三,投资者应该能以市场汇率随时将资金转入和转出该国。

第四,协定要有广泛的涵盖面。中国最近同意,除协议明确禁止外资进入的行业以外,其他任何行业都应被默认为向外国投资者开放。比起过去的做法,这是一个可喜的变化——过去,外商只能投资官方批准投资清单上列出的少数行业。不过,中国目前拟出的初步“负面清单”太长,仍需缩短。

最后,任何协定都需要一个国际仲裁体系,以执行协定规则、裁决争议。应建立国际仲裁体系,允许私人以及国家对经济损失提出索赔。从过去的经验来看,这种仲裁机制一直运行得不错。

中国改革者相信,双边投资协定有助于打击偏袒和腐败现象、废除阻碍市场竞争的繁琐监管规定、改善执法不公现象以及缩减国企享有的优待。正如一位中国官员告诉我的,如果当局能平等、公正地对待外国人,中国私营部门就能要求享有同样待遇。中国改革者认识到,如果能公平执行经济规则,中小企业将成为最大的赢家。

有关双边投资规则的谈判势必需要时间。当初中国“入世”谈判也是一场“马拉松”。美国和欧盟应相互合作,为各自与中国签订的协定设立高标准。可利用谈判过程吸引不同的人群参与,包括商业和社会团体、认识到投资益处的地方官员、能从开放市场中受益的工人和农民、以及中国改革的支持者。

奥巴马政府必须将中美投资协定提交到国会。一份强有力的投资协定是达成其他重要贸易协定(比如《跨太平洋战略经济伙伴关系协定》(TPP))的必要基石。好的战略不仅要有创意,还要付诸实施。尽管双边协定可能非常专业,但它们却可能成为十分有力的工具。它们能促进中国的市场改革,深化中国与西方的建设性经济关系,并强化国际法治。它们还为缓冲各种不可避免的分歧建立了一项积极的议程。

本文作者曾任世界银行行长、美国贸易代表和副国务卿

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