Posts tagged: indigenous innovation policy

Gary Locke’s Take on U.S.-China Relations – “Trenton Makes the World Takes”

By , January 13, 2011

I used to think I was the only one who noticed the huge, weird, angry sign “Trenton Makes the World Takes” plastered on the Delaware Bridge just outside the New Jersey city of Trenton.  So imagine my surprise when this slogan was featured in Commerce Secretary Gary Locke’s speech about U.S.-China relations before the U.S.-China Business Council (USCBC) on Thursday.  For Locke, the manufacturing center of Trenton during the early 20th Century is China today; it’s China that now makes and the world takes.

But the status quo must change Locke argued.  While noting some successful U.S.-China commercial relations, Locke raised the issue of market access in China, particularly in light of China’s indigenous innovation policies and its lax protection of intellectual property (which makes one wonder why didn’t he continue to play with the Trenton theme and say “China makes AND takes”; that would have elicited laughs from the USCBC for sure),  Between Locke’s speech, reprinted below, and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s speech Wednesday, there is some serious saber-rattling coming from the American delegation in preparation of President Hu Jintao’s State visit next week.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke Delivers Policy Speech

on U.S.-China Commercial Relations

Thank you John, for that kind introduction.  And thank you for having me here today.

We are today less than a week away from an important State visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao.

More than two decades ago, on my first trip to mainland China, I could not imagine that the U.S.-China relationship would eventually become so consequential.

Nor could I have imagined a scene like we witnessed a few days ago: Defense Secretary Gates joining together with his Chinese counterpart to stress the need for stronger military ties between China and the United States.

In 1989, I came in from Shanghai’s airport on a rickety, Russian-made bus, and stepped into that city’s dimly lit streets into a world very different than the one I left in the U.S.

There were swarms of bicycles – young men with their dates balanced on handlebars, grandparents pedaling to the market, boys and girls with white-knuckle grips on their parents’ shoulders. Bikes everywhere.

Shanghai then was a gritty, industrial city filled with low-rise buildings.

There were no skyscrapers. Few cars.

There was little sign of what was to come.

Today, Shanghai’s skyline is dotted by more than 400 skyscrapers.  Go to the Shanghai World Financial Center – one of the tallest buildings in the world – and you can stay at a Park Hyatt Hotel with a lobby on the 79th floor.

Those bike paths I saw on my first visit have been replaced by elevated freeways shuttling people and commerce at a frenetic pace.

To see it is to be awed, and I am every time I go back to China.

The explosive growth in places like Shanghai has helped lift almost 200 million people out of poverty.  In the years ahead, hundreds of millions more Chinese citizens will join the middle class.

The United States welcomes this growth, because it’s good for the people of China; it’s good for the global economy; and it’s important for U.S. companies who offer world-class products and service, products and services that can improve the quality of life for the Chinese, while providing jobs for American workers back home.

With the U.S.-China Business Council’s help, this has become perhaps the most important bilateral trading relationship in the world.

China is the top destination for American exports, behind just Canada and Mexico.  And America is the number one national market for Chinese exports.

In the past 20 years, U.S. exports to China have increased by a factor of 12; imports from China have increased more than 30-fold.

However, we are at a turning point in the U.S.-China economic partnership.  Last year, China became the second largest economy in the world.  And the policies and practices that have shaped our relations over the past few decades will not suffice over the next few decades.

So today, I’d like to talk a bit about how we can move forward and ensure that we can unlock the full potential of the U.S.-China commercial relationship in the early 21st century.

The gross trade imbalances between our countries are a good place to start, because they have the potential to threaten global stability and prosperity.

And I think a great illustration of that can be found in, of all places, Trenton, New Jersey.

Many of you have likely taken Amtrak up to New York, and when you pass by the Delaware River in New Jersey, you see that famous sign: Trenton Makes and the World Takes.

Well, replace Trenton with China, and you have a simplistic, but pretty accurate description of the global economy over the last few decades.

China and the United States benefited tremendously from this arrangement in recent years.

American consumers got an impressive array of low-cost goods.  And in its transition into one of the world’s top exporters, China was able to lift millions of its citizens into a fast-growing middle class.

But it’s not sustainable.  The debt-fueled consumption binge in developed countries like America is over.

And countries like China are beginning to realize that there are limits to purely export-driven growth.

That’s why we need a more equitable commercial relationship.  And it is within our reach.

The United States is doing its part to facilitate global adjustments by increasing private savings and exports, as well as taking steps to bring down its long-term fiscal deficits to a sustainable level.

And the Chinese leadership is making the rebalancing of its economy one of the cornerstones of its forthcoming five-year plan.

China is aiming to promote domestic consumption through a variety of measures, such as boosting the minimum wage for its workers and building an improved social safety net. Changes like these will hasten the rise of a middle class that wants the same cars, appliances, fashion, medical care and other amenities that have long been enjoyed by consumers in the Western world.

The Chinese government is also putting an intensive focus on strategic emerging industries, with more high-value work in areas like healthcare, energy and high technology.

And the Chinese have signaled that they want foreign businesses to help develop these sectors by entering joint ventures and by conducting more research and development in China.

This is assistance that U.S. companies are eager to provide, so long as China deals meaningfully with concerns about intellectual property protection, as well as a variety of other issues I will talk about later.

Such cooperative projects can serve as the foundation for a stronger economic relationship between China and the U.S.

But China’s long-term success at addressing the concerns of international businesses will help determine whether it realizes its economic vision – a vision in which China is a leader in innovation and a producer of higher-value goods and services.

Here’s the good news: we are already seeing examples of just how this future could play out, as our businesses and our governments collaborate to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges.

Just look at what’s happening with the new Energy Cooperation Program that Secretary Chu and I announced while in China in October 2009 to promote more collaboration between Chinese and American companies on energy issues.  One of the founding corporate members of the program, Boeing, is partnering with Air China and Petro China to research a new generation of aviation biofuels that don’t rely on food crops.

If this venture is successful, it could reduce the carbon footprint of airplane travel, and avoid the negative impact that other biofuels have on the global food supply.

Or look at what’s happening with Duke Energy, one of America’s leading utilities, which has signed an agreement for joint research with China’s largest energy company, Huaneng, and with the Chinese government’s Thermal Power Research Institute.

Today, there are scientists and researchers shuttling between the companies and the research institute, working to develop cutting-edge solutions for cleaner-burning coal and carbon sequestration.

The Chinese and American governments are also working together on a variety of transportation issues, including how to spur the deployment of more high-speed rail.  China has embraced high-speed rail and has developed its infrastructure at a tremendous rate.  Starting from scratch, China has constructed and put into service over 4,000 miles of high-speed routes in the last decade – making China’s the longest high-speed rail network in the world.

In meetings last year, officials and experts from the Department of Transportation and China’s Railway Ministry met in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to share information on the development of high-speed rail standards.  And at the state level, the Chinese government has signed cooperation agreements with the State of California on its high-speed rail project to link Anaheim and San Francisco.

There is, however, a sobering side to U.S.-China commercial relations: For every story like Duke Energy’s or Boeing’s, there are many more that are never written.

When I talk to business leaders across America, they continue to express significant concerns – shared by business around the world –about the commercial environment in China – especially China’s lax intellectual property protection and enforcement, lack of transparency in government decision-making and numerous indigenous innovation policies that often preclude foreign companies from vying for Chinese government contracts.  These policies mandate that products must be made, conceived and designed in China.

It’s important to note that since China formally joined the WTO nine years ago, it has made important progress opening its market.  Tariffs have come down, private property rights are steadily evolving and great strides have been made to free the flow of commerce across China’s borders.

On balance, the competitive playing field in China is fairer to foreign firms that it was a decade ago.  And we commend the Chinese for that.

It is also not lost on countries in the West that on our march towards industrialization, we sometimes protected native industries with policies that today would mobilize an army of WTO lawyers in opposition.

But those policies were folly then, and they are surely folly now.  After World War II, the United States and a growing community of nations painstakingly built a global trading system based on the freer flow of goods, ideas and services across borders.

And the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1995 ensured that countries would be held accountable for their commitments to open markets and lower barriers.

China has benefited tremendously from this international trading system, especially since it joined the WTO in 2001.  The United States and other foreign nations have every right to seek more meaningful commitment and progress from China in implementing the market-opening policies it agreed to when it joined the WTO.

From our experience, there are usually five things that need to happen to turn these promises into reality.

It starts with the easiest step: a statement of principle from Chinese officials that action will be taken to solve a market access issue.

Next, that agreement has to be codified into binding law or regulations.

Third, the law or regulation needs to be faithfully implemented by the central government.

And fourth, it needs to be implemented at the local and provincial levels.

Only after all these things have happened can you arrive at the fifth, final and most important step, which is where this new law or regulation becomes a norm – an accepted way of doing business in China’s commercial culture.

When it comes to indigenous innovation, intellectual property or a variety of other market-access issues, an enduring frustration is that in too many cases only the earliest steps are taken, but not all five.

Perhaps an agreement is made, but it never becomes binding.  Or perhaps there’s a well-written law or regulation at the national level, but there’s lax enforcement at the provincial or city level.

A few weeks ago, the Commerce Department and the office of the U.S. Trade Representative welcomed Vice Premier Wang Qishan and other leading Chinese officials for the 21st Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, where we worked through a variety of specific trade issues.

It was a productive meeting.  Vice Premier Wang and his team were responsive to our concerns and they pledged action in a variety of areas critical to American businesses.

They agreed to remove administrative and regulatory barriers discriminating against American companies selling everything from industrial machinery and telecom devices; to those that restrict U.S. participation in the development of large-scale wind farms in China.

They also agreed to revise one of their major government procurement catalogues to ensure a level playing field for foreign suppliers and to reduce the use of counterfeit software in government offices and state-owned enterprises.

Additionally, Vice Premier Wang asked the Commerce Department and the U.S. Trade Representative to partner with him on a public campaign to reduce intellectual property rights violations in China, which he is leading.

The American government welcomes these commitments from China.

But to be clear, they are only a first step.  What was agreed to at the JCCT were important statements of principle and policy – but they must be turned into concrete action with results.

Take last year’s JCCT, when the Chinese agreed to remove a local content requirement for wind turbine suppliers – a positive step forward.

But soon after, China’s government employed a rule that required foreign businesses seeking to build large scale wind farms in China to have prior experience with such projects in China.  The rule might have been different than the local content requirement, but it had the same effect – making it tougher for foreign companies to compete with China’s domestic companies.

At this year’s JCCT, we persuaded the Chinese to modify that rule as well.

Or look at the issue of intellectual property. We have heard Chinese leaders condemn IP-theft in the strongest terms, and we’ve seen central government laws and regulations written or amended to reflect that sentiment.

But American and other foreign companies, in industries ranging from pharmaceuticals and biotechnology to entertainment, still lose billions of dollars from counterfeiting and IP-theft in China every year.

For example, in the United States, for every $1 in computer hardware sales there is about 88 cents in software sales.  But in China, for every dollar in hardware sales there is only eight cents in software sales.

According to the Business Software Alliance, that discrepancy is largely explained by the fact that nearly 80 percent of the software used on computers in China is counterfeit.

So America welcomes Vice Premier Wang’s pledge to accelerate China’s crackdown on intellectual property violations.  And China will have a very willing partner in this endeavor in the United States.  But we will be focused on meaningful outcomes.

I recognize I’m not the first foreign official to express concern over the commercial environment in China.  But it would be a mistake to portray this concern solely as U.S. self-interest masquerading as advice.

The Chinese economy is increasingly moving up the global economic value chain, where growth is created not just by the power of a country’s industrial might, but also by the power of its people’s ideas and their inventions.

In the long run, economies with poor intellectual property protections and inconsistent application of market access laws will lose out on generating great new ideas and technologies.  And they’ll lose out on the jobs that come with producing new products – jobs critical to an expanding middle class.

The damage won’t happen overnight.  I freely admit that companies and countries can gain short-term advantages from lax rules in the commercial space.

But over time, if innovators fear that their inventions or ideas will be stolen or discriminated against, one of two things will happen – they’ll either stop inventing, or they’ll decide to create or sell their inventions elsewhere.

Ultimately, all that the United States seeks is a level playing field for its companies, where the cost and quality of their products determines whether or not they win business.

That is the ideal we strive for in the United States.

And our commitment to open and competitive markets is a big reason why we remain the number one destination for foreign direct investment in the world.

We understand that China’s modernization and evolution towards a more market-oriented economy is a process that will take time.

China has 1.3 billion people.  Seven hundred million of them still live in rural areas; many with little electricity or running water.  It took the United States over 100 years to build the electrical transmission capacity it has today.

To meet the rising demands of its own consumers, China will have to build a similar amount of capacity in just 15 years.

These are enormous undertakings.  And it’s understandable if, in the past, China’s immediate development goals took precedence over other concerns.

With millions of Chinese coming in from the countryside looking for work, it isn’t necessarily an easy decision to close down a factory producing counterfeit goods, when that factory is providing badly needed jobs.

So what we’re discussing here are real and significant challenges. For market reforms to continue, it will take constant vigilance – not just from the United States, but from all countries and businesses around the world that benefit from rules-based trading.  And from Chinese business and government leaders, who themselves have a strong stake in ensuring that China is friendly to global innovation and international competition.

In front of us is the opportunity for China and the United States to lead the world economy in the early 21st century to create a new foundation for sustainable growth for years to come.

We can’t tell exactly what that future will look like.

But we can be certain that it will be a better future if the Chinese and American governments pursue cooperation over confrontation in the economic sphere.

Cooperation that will put millions of our people to work.

Cooperation that will develop technologies to solve the most pressing environmental, economic and social challenges facing the world today.

This is the great opportunity before China and the United States.  We just have to seize it.

Thank you.

###

How China Beat the U.S. and Became the New Green Tech Giant

By , August 31, 2010

China marches on to be the global green tech leader

Originally Posted on Foreign Policy Digest

China no longer needs to worry about the U.S. as a serious green technology competitor because the U.S. just left the race. After a year-long impasse, Senate majority leader Harry Reid confirmed on July 22, 2010 that the Democrats would not be able to secure enough votes to pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act and, thus, would abandon any further efforts to do so.

But, in today’s globalized economy, rising powers like China are willing and readily able to capitalize on America’s missed opportunities. The climate change bill would have provided a coherent U.S. energy policy, directed investment to green technology and created much-needed American jobs. Instead, those investment and job opportunities will likely go to China. With China’s rapid expansion into the clean technology sector, the U.S. is being left behind and leaving many to wonder–will it ever be able to catch up?

BACKGROUND

Although the U.S. debate on climate change dwells on the prevention of environmental damage, the Chinese government focuses on the economics of climate change, emphasizing the direct link between clean technology and China’s energy security and economic competitiveness. Former Center for American Progress senior policy analyst Julian Wong explained in a recent testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission that China’s emphasis on the economic upside of clean technology has imbued its energy policy with a greater sense of urgency, allowing the country to surpass the U.S. in many renewable energy industries.

With over 4,000 miles of track laid domestically, China is the leader in high-speed rail.  It has pledged $300 billion to bring high-speed rail to many parts of the country and is exporting its expertise to Turkey, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and potentially, even California. Notoriously stingy at funding its rail system, the U.S., on the other hand, has pledged a relatively paltry $8 billion and has only one high-speed rail line. Instead of developing cleaner rail technology, the U.S. continues to develop carbon-intensive modes of transportation, investing in highways and air transit.

China has also become a global leader in the renewable energy sector. As the leading manufacturer of solar panels, China exports most of its solar panels overseas. As for wind, China installed the largest number of wind turbines in the world in 2009, expanding its wind capacity by 13 GW. By contrast, the U.S. only expanded its capacity by 10 GW in 2009. But, China’s prowess in renewables should not come as a surprise. In 2009, China invested $34.6 billion in green technology, making it the leader in renewable energy funding; the U.S. came in second, investing $18.6 billion.

Some critics argue that the Chinese government has an unfair advantage because an authoritarian system can funnel money easily to industries it wants to promote. The largest commercial banks in China are state-owned and–at the insistence of the central government–have provided ample low-interest loans to green technology companies. The U.S. market economy, on the other hand, cannot require American banks to give out favorable loans. Furthermore, China has used protectionist policies, like its “indigenous innovation” policy, to promote home-grown companies at the expense of foreign ones.

ANALYSIS

While some of these arguments are reasonable and should be addressed in trade talks with the Chinese, their importance in explaining the U.S.’ second-fiddle status is exaggerated. The criticisms serve only to obscure the real issue behind the U.S.’ downfall in the green technology sector – the lack of a coherent national energy policy. In the U.S., the climate change debate too often ignores the important role of government in promoting emerging industries within the capitalist framework and cooperating with the private sector. Silicon Valley, for example, flourished because of government support and its close ties to government, particularly the defense agencies. To attribute China’s competitive edge to its planned economy is to suggest that capitalism and free markets are what hinder the U.S. ability to be a viable competitor in the global green technology market. But, American history shows that government support bolsters innovation.

Capital will flow to where there is some level of certainty in investment. Venture capitalists are sinking their dollars into China’s green technology because the Chinese government has a crystal-clear policy, which it has backed by huge investments in renewable energy–sure signs of a government’s sincere commitment to promoting green tech. These investors are also receiving huge returns on their Chinese investments.  China’s richest person is now believed to be Wang Chuanfu, founder and chairman of BYD, a battery and electric car company in China.

Furthermore, it’s not just Chinese capital that is flowing. This September, Chinese wind turbine manufacturer Mingyang Electric will seek to raise $500 million in an initial public offering in the U.S. If the U.S. wants that capital to remain within its borders, the federal government needs to make an equally strong commitment to renewable energy. Until Congress passes some sort of legislation signaling its commitments to certain industries, capital–even U.S. capital–will continue to flow to China and green technology innovation in the U.S. will remain at a standstill.

In his testimony, Julian Wong raised the crucial point that, although the U.S. still leads China in green technology research and development (R&D), eventually, those R&D dollars will want to move to China, too. By its nature, R&D needs to be geographically close to its manufacturing base, as well as to the end users of its products. In fact, some U.S. companies–including important players like Applied Materials, DuPont, and IBM–have already begun to move their green tech R&D to China.

China has clearly surpassed the U.S. in key green technology industries and has established the economic infrastructure to lead the green technology market. Instead of trying to stay on the offensive, Congress has defensively decried China’s authoritarian government and indigenous innovation policies and aroused fear of China’s threat to American economic dominance. Aside from rhetoric, it is unclear what substantive actions Congress is taking to make the U.S. green technology sector more competitive. If the U.S. followed China’s example in passing green tech-friendly policies, it may be able to catch up. But, by ignoring that possibility and abandoning any hopes of climate change legislation, Congress has, instead, opted out of the green technology race. Unfortunately, the only losers in Congress’ ill-fated decision are the American public and the millions of Americans still out of work.

China’s Government Procurement Policies – Fair or Discriminatory? An Expert Weighs In

Last month’s Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) featured many thorny issues that have been plaguing U.S.-China relations for the past few months: North Korea, currency manipulation, Iran….and government procurement?  Yes, Brett Gersongovernment procurement. Not what one would think of as a controversial topic worthy of a major dialogue between two of the world’s leading powers.  So to help us understand the addition of government procurement to the S&ED agenda is Brett Gerson, an associate in the international trade and public procurement practices at Reed Smith and co-author of the recent article “Can China’s Government Procurement Market be Cracked?” in this month’s The China Business Review.

Click here to listen to the interview with Brett Gerson or read below for the entire transcript.
Length: 19 minutes (audio will open in another browser)

In the interview, Brett mentions three laws and regulations pertaining to government procurement in China. They can be found through these links:

***************************************************************************

Potentially a $90 billion Procurement Shopping Spree

Potentially a $90 billion Procurement Shopping Spree

ELJust to begin, what exactly is meant by government procurement and how does this involve U.S.-China relations?

BG:  Well, essentially government procurement is the process whereby governments or government ministries or agencies can purchase goods or services at a large-scale to provide for use in the carrying out of government processes.  So for example, this could, as an example of goods, a government agency could purchase in bulk a large number of, let’s say, printers or staplers or another good.  It could also be services.  The government could enter into an agreement with an IT company to provide some type of computer services or internet maintenance or something like that.

It’s becoming a very big issue between the U.S. and China because like many other areas of China’s market, there is immense potential for companies – both Chinese and foreign – to get into China’s procurement market.  Obviously the Chinese government is huge, they have a wide array of ministries and agencies both at a, sort of, federal level coming from Beijing, and at a provincial level.

EL: And how big is this market, this potential market, in U.S. dollars?

BG:  It’s hard to say exactly.  Most estimates hover around $90 billion which is really huge.  But it is tough because it is hard to say exactly which entities are state-owned enterprises, so which are entirely private and which are sort of public in nature.  But most estimates hover around $90 billion and I have seen a couple where in 2010 that’s expected to reach $100 billion.

EL: Currently, does China have any policy or laws in regards to government procurement of foreign companies’ goods or services?

BG: Yeah.  In 2002, China promulgated the Government Procurement Law.  It’s somewhat controversial in nature but it basically just states that Chinese government agencies and entities must purchase domestic goods, works or services except where those goods, works or services can’t be obtained within China under reasonable commercial terms.  Those reasonable commercial terms are defined as 20 percent more than imports.  Now, the problem with the Government Procurement Law is that it never defined what is “domestic.”  So companies, particularly foreign companies, had a hard time cracking that market because it was so easy for the Chinese government and Chinese government agencies and entities to just simply purchase products – goods or services – from Chinese companies.

Since 2002, there has been a lot of international pressure on China to better define what is domestic.  They finally did this in January 2010, just about six months ago, the Chinese government issued what’s called the Implementing Regulations.  These aren’t exactly law, but they define how the Chinese government is suppose to carry out the Government Procurement Law.  The Implementing Regulations set forth that….it better defined domestic.  It says that essentially domestic manufacturing costs that exceed a certain threshold, those products will be defined as domestic.  Now in the implementing regulations, they didn’t actually set the threshold.  We were able to look at some other guidance that the Chinese government issued recently and we were able to guess that they probably meant 50 percent.  Now, just a few weeks ago, right before the high-level meetings in China that you discussed, the Chinese government again issued another sort of policy guidance paper that did clarify that the threshold for a product to be considered domestic is 50 percent of domestic production costs.

ELSo if they have clarified this recently and this law has been in place since 2002, why is this now becoming such

China's Government Procurement Laws - Trade Protectionism?

China's Government Procurement Laws - Trade Protectionism?

an issue? What has caused government procurement to become almost the centerpiece of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue last month?

BG:  There’s two main reasons and they sort of come together.  The first is that in the World Trade Organization, there is an agreement called the Government Procurement Agreement [GPA].  It’s a plurilateral agreement meaning that some but not all of the World Trade Organization members are a part of this agreement.  It basically just states that if you’re a party to this agreement, you cannot favor products or services from your country against those from a foreign country.  China, when they first came on to the World Trade Organization in 2001, they promised that they would join the Government Procurement Agreement as soon as possible.  Now, they have submitted a proposal before, back in 2007, but it didn’t quite come to the level of international best practices.  The member countries essentially rejected it.  Since that point, the United States as well as major European countries and other members to the GPA, have pressured China to resubmit a proposal that do come up to the standard that the member countries expect.  Finally, China agreed just recently at the high-level discussions in China that they were going to submit a new proposal in July of this year.  Right before the time the World Trade Organization Government Procurement Committee meets.  So I think that is one of the issues that is really bringing it to the forefront, is that there is a lot of pressure on China to join the GPA agreement.

The other issue, and this was also discussed and mentioned by Hillary Clinton and Timothy Geithner, is China has set forth a very controversial policy called indigenous innovation policies.  And basically these are policies that direct provincial governments and agencies and ministries to buy only from certain product catalogs.  These catalogs are primarily made up of high-tech and IT goods and traditionally it’s been extremely hard for foreign companies to get their products onto these catalogs.  For example, and I mention this in the article, out of the Shanghai-based catalog, there are over 500 products that are listed on this catalog, and foreign products make up only two of these products.  Of those two, they are not entirely foreign entities, they’re joint ventures between a foreign company and a local Chinese company.

So I think those two issues, one that China has been slow to join the World Trade Organization Government Procurement Agreement and two, these indigenous innovation polices that make it very difficult for foreign companies to get their high-tech products listed on these procurement catalogs.

ELBut in terms of China favoring its domestic products over foreign products, is China really acting any differently than from any other countries in terms of government procurement?  Doesn’t in the U.S., isn’t the U.S. government required to purchase U.S. products?  How is China any different from that?

buy_americanBG:  Well there’s a couple of differences.  The U.S. and other countries that are members of the GPA do have policies that direct or allow their own domestic government entities to purchase only domestic products.

There’s a couple of differences.  One, here in the U.S. we have what is called the Buy American Act.  The Buy American Act essentially says that federal agencies can only procure unmanufactured articles that have been mined or produced in the U.S. or manufactured articles that were made substantially of articles or materials mined or produced in the U.S.  But there are several exceptions.  One is you can waive that if it would be consistent with public interest or if observing that preference would be inconsistent with the public interest.  Second, where the cost of buying the U.S. good is, sort of, unreasonably higher than would you purchase them from a foreign entity.  The third exception is where the products in question are in too short of a supply in the U.S. to make that purchase feasible.

In addition to that, government agencies may purchase foreign-made information technology equipment.  So that’s sort of a big issue and that sort of touches upon the China indigenous innovation policies – there is sort of a cut-out for U.S. government agencies to waive the Buy American requirements for sort of high-tech, IT goods.

Also, the Buy American Act doesn’t include services which the Chinese government procurement policies will.  As you know, services is a huge sector for foreign companies in China: legal services, accounting services, IT services, things of this nature.

In addition to the Buy American Act, we also have the Trade Agreements Act and this is a pretty big issue because the Buy American Act will be waived where we have a trade agreement act, an agreement with another country.  These include all the countries that are signatories of the WTO Government Procurement Agreement that we mentioned before that China is not a signatory to; these also include all countries that we have free trade agreements with ; all these developed countries and also the Caribbean basin countries.

You are right in that the U.S. does have certain policies like the Buy American Act that on their face appear somewhat discriminatory.  But I think that the differences between China’s policies and the U.S. policies is that we have so many carve-outs for our Buy American Act: exceptions and instances where the Buy American Act requirements will be waived where we have agreements in place with other countries.  China is not one of them.

ELJust to go back to the indigenous innovation policy of China, because that was something that Secretary of State Clinton did mention specifically as a problem.  I guess just examining the equities of it.  Given that the U.S. and other countries were largely able to develop their technology sector before our current global trade system, and before there was competition from other countries, shouldn’t China also be permitted this luxury?  Don’t they have an opportunity to catch up?  Isn’t China’s indigenous innovation policy just a way to allow its small but growing technology sector to really flourish?

BG:  There is no question that China should be allowed to sort of foster the growth of their high-tech services but I

Investing in R&D in China might bring more benefit than an indigenous innovation policy

Investing in R&D in China might bring more benefit than an indigenous innovation policy

think, and Secretary Clinton and Secretary Geithner both mentioned this, that there’s ways to do this that are less discriminatory for foreign firms.  Rather than link the indigenous innovation policies to government procurement – which they are trying to do – we think that there are other ways such as using tax incentives or research and development support programs that can sort of achieve the same goals without the discriminatory effect.  We think that generally China grow this area by including foreign firms rather than excluding them.  Like I said, there are certainly sort of high-tech tax status programs that they can enter into and R&D programs.

One of the big ways that their policies discriminate against foreign firms is, initially when they released the indigenous innovation policies, they required that to get on these catalogues that I mentioned before, the company has to…the trademark of the product has to be owned by a Chinese company and they also had to have full ownership of the products IP [intellectual property] in China.  This was really stringent, this was tough.  Thankfully, just a couple of months ago in April actually, the Chinese government again released sort of guiding, implementing regulations memo.  Now, this doesn’t have the force of law but they’re proposing to relax these requirements by saying that instead of having full ownership of the trademark in China, the company need only have exclusive rights to the product’s trademark in China.  Instead of having complete ownership of the intellectual property in China, you only have to have a license to use the intellectual property in China.

So this is definitely a step in the right direction.  But ultimately, I think ideally foreign companies, U.S. companies, would want to de-link the indigenous innovation policies from government procurement.

ELJust getting back to the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, do you know what it was that the U.S. side was seeking to achieve in terms of government procurement and indigenous innovation policy.  I know that you had mentioned a little bit before but can you just summarize that the U.S. wanted out of it?

BG:  Sure.  I think the first thing they wanted is to urge China to submit an additional proposal, a new proposal, to the World Trade Organization Government Procurement Agreement, which they have agreed to do by mid-July so that’s definitely is a step in the right direction.  We don’t know exactly what that is going to say but we are think that it is going to be a step closer to international best practices and the other proposals that the member countries have agreed to.

Second, I think that, the U.S. delegates really wanted the Chinese government to relax the indigenous innovation policies and de-link them from the government procurement policies.  As it stands right now in the Implementing Regulations, Article 9 says that Chinese government entities and agencies should favor indigenous innovation products which are only listed on these catalogues like I mentioned.  So I think what the U.S. government would like to see is getting rid of the indigenous innovation article from the Government Procurement Law.  It is unclear that the Chinese government is going to do that.

ELEven though it seems like there was some progress at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue and that China has agreed to submit a new proposal, do you really see though China, I guess, even if it submits a new proposal, do you see that proposal to the WTO to join the Government Procurement portion of the WTO, do you see that as actually being something that other member countries would agree to?  Do you see China acquiescing to a lot of the foreign pressure and is it really in China’s self-interest to do that at this stage in its development?

WTO-Logo3403BG:  It’s hard to say at this point.  I think we’ve seen that, in other areas, in strategic and economic areas, China has certainly refused to acquiesce to international pressure to do certain things or not to do certain things.  So it is hard to say without seeing their proposal.  I think that the GPA member countries would reject a proposal that is not up to standard.  They’ve done it before and I think they might do it again.  And I’m not sure that would be in China’s interest.  I think China at this point would have to understand what the member countries expect, what the parameters would be.  And it’s unclear to me that they would submit something that would be any less than that.  So it’s hard to say.  I don’t know.

Generally it seems that China doesn’t acquiesce.  However if the international community is successful in persuading them that it is in their best interest, to relax their indigenous innovation policies and to de-link them from government procurement, then I think they will go ahead and submit a proposal that’s up to par, that’s in line with international best practices.

Over the last several months, in January, since they issued their Implementing Regulations, there has been significant international backlash and they have sort of watered down some of the more strict discriminatory provisions in the Implementing Regulations.  So there’s been progress.  I suppose they only have another six, seven weeks before they’re going to submit their proposal to the Government Procurement Committee so it is unclear how much further they are going to go in watering those items down.

ELWell I guess only time will tell what happens in July.   Thank you.

BG:  It will be interesting; hopefully we can follow up and discuss what happened.

ELThat would be great.  Thank you so much for your time.

BG:  Thank you.

Panorama Theme by Themocracy

%d bloggers like this: