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Transparent regulations give confidence to foreign investors

Kong Wenzheng/Zhang Ruinan
Updated: Mar 14,2019 9:56 AM     China Daily

China’s draft foreign investment law will give foreign investors more confidence and promote the growth of the economy, according to Maurice Greenberg, chairman and CEO of US-based insurer Starr Companies.

The insurance magnate said the draft law addresses some major concerns of foreign investors and promises to resolve them.

The draft foreign investment law, which was presented to the National People’s Congress on March 8 and is set to be voted on March 15, will significantly change the operating environment for foreign companies if approved.

Under the draft law, foreign companies will receive greater intellectual property protection, forced technology transfers will be forbidden, and the negative list of sectors in which overseas companies cannot operate will be reduced.

“One of the big problems is that foreign companies, (including) US companies doing business in China, want to be treated the same way as Chinese companies,” Greenberg said.

“I believe that’s recognized now.

“Having transparent rules and regulations that foreign investors understand and can rely on — that gives confidence to the foreign investors, and it’s very good for China.”

Greenberg also said changing the rules will add to the growth of the economy. “More foreign investments, more confidence in the foreign investors — that will be very good for the economy,” he said.

By the end of last year, about 960,000 foreign-invested enterprises had been set up in China, with accumulated foreign direct investment exceeding $2.1 trillion. China advanced to a global ranking of 46 in terms of ease of doing business last year, up from 78th place in 2017, according to the World Bank Group.

Greenberg, one of 10 foreigners awarded the China Reform Friendship Medal by President Xi Jinping last year, said trade talks between the Chinese and US governments were “going forward quite well”.

“I hope it will be concluded very shortly, and we’ll get back to normal relations — (the US-China relationship) is the most important relationship in the world,” Greenberg said.

“I’m confident that both sides realize the importance of the relationship and I believe that the outcome will be very positive.”

It is not unusual to have differences, he said, but when the two nations have differences, they need to try to work them out.

Greenberg said that from a business point of view, the two countries complement each other.

“China and the US as close allies (makes for) a very safe world; China and the US having major differences is a different kind of world,” he said.

Greenberg joined Starr as vice-president in 1960, consolidated a number of insurers into the company and formed the franchise into American International Group, which later became the largest insurance and financial services company in the world.

Greenberg’s relationship with China started in 1975 — 15 years after he joined Starr — when he became the first company executive to visit China since the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

That visit led to a partnership between Starr Companies and People’s Insurance Company of China, and Greenberg has traveled to China every year since. In 1992, his company became the first foreign company to receive a wholly owned life insurance license in China, helping to open up the country’s financial services industry.

He said that since China embarked on reform and opening-up in the late 1970s, relationships between the people of the two countries have grown much closer.

“Compared to when I first went to China, it’s totally different,” Greenberg said. “There are thousands of Chinese coming to the US, and thousands of Americans going to China; that didn’t exist before.

“And there’s more confidence between both countries and the people. The Chinese people and American people like each other. That’s good for the world, good for China, and good for the US. And I’m proud to have been a part of that.”