Like many other foreign experts and academics around the world, Bernard Dewit is among those applauding the draft foreign investment law that will be reviewed at the plenary session of the National People’s Congress.
The draft law, already reviewed by the NPC Standing Committee in December and January, is expected to replace three existing laws on foreign direct investment in China.
Dewit, chairman of the Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, said he was pleased the new law will give foreign companies equal treatment in government procurement. “So that is something very favorable,” he told China Daily at his law firm in Brussels.
He praised the draft law for addressing concerns such as the protection of intellectual property rights and national treatment of foreign companies.
He called the draft law a positive sign from China for foreign businesses.
“We don’t see a China closing its door. We don’t see a China closing its borders. That is important,” he said.
“We love an open China. And I think these measures are going in a good direction.”
Dewit said he believes the draft law will make it easier for foreign companies to access the Chinese market than it would have been under the first draft, which was rolled out in 2015.
A keen observer of China’s legal system and the author of a book on China’s foreign trade law, Dewit said China’s legal system has become “more and more complex and more developed”.
He said he believes the draft law will also help alleviate concern about Chinese investment in Europe. “That will also help in Europe to consider Chinese investment not as the enemy, not as the killer, but as a partner,” he said.
The European Parliament last month approved new measures to screen foreign direct investment－especially by State-owned enterprises－on grounds of security and public order. The rules have been seen by many as targeting China and several other countries.
Both the Dewit Law Office and the 600-member Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce help Belgian and Chinese businesses develop in each other’s markets.
While praising the draft law for going in the right direction, Dewit stressed that it is important to see how it will be applied once it goes into effect. “But this is not just for China, it’s for every country. You have the law, let’s see how it is enacted,” he said.
“Sometimes, it takes some time, especially in such a big country as China. As it has to be enacted in various provinces, that will be a new challenge. But I am confident in that.”
Besides the draft law, Dewit expressed interest in the final negative list for foreign investment to be issued by the Chinese government, something he said will be important to foreign investors.
In Dewit’s view, there are countries in Europe actively seeking Chinese investment and countries that worry Chinese companies are killing local industries.
Dewit, who has been making frequent trips to China since the mid-1980s, said people in Europe who see China as a danger are mainly those who do not know China.
His trips to China have included visits to remote areas－Qinghai province and the Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang Uygur and Tibet autonomous regions. Dewit also received the Friendship Award from the Chinese government in 2017.
“I would say that after more than 35 years of interest in China, I am still learning about China every day,” he said. “There are still a lot of things to discover.”