The Standing Committee of the Guangdong Provincial People's Congress held a special press conference on Feb 22 on the Regulations on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Foreign Investors in Guangdong Province. During the conference, they discussed the regulations, Guangdong's foreign capital utilization, and the follow-up implementation of the regulations. They also answered questions from reporters.
The regulations consist of 28 articles and cover the following areas: setting forth government responsibilities, the protection scope of rights and interests, the creation of a business environment driven by fair competition, the improvement of government services, as well as the mechanism for handling complaints lodged by foreign-invested enterprises.
The regulations will come into effect on March 1. As the first local legislation on the protection of rights and interests of foreign investors in China, the regulations reflect Guangdong's commitment to further expand opening-up efforts and effectively utilize foreign investment, which is conducive to the creation of a stable, transparent, as well as fair business environment.
Chen Yuehua, deputy director general of the Department of Commerce of Guangdong Province, said that the regulations cover matters related to intellectual property rights (IPR), standard establishment, government procurement, technical cooperation, and foreign investor complaints, adding that they are an effective response to foreign-invested enterprises' key concerns and will further optimize Guangdong's business environment.
The regulations stipulate that the relevant commerce departments and bureaus will take the lead in protecting the rights and interests of foreign investors, while the Department of Commerce of Guangdong Province will coordinate and work with relevant provincial departments to ensure the effective implementation of relevant measures. In the future, the department will focus on improving the level of foreign capital utilization and push forward the following tasks:
1. Improving the foreign investment environment, as well as strengthening the promotion and interpretation of the regulations and the "Stabilizing Foreign Investment" policy;
2. Expanding high-level opening-up, supporting the pilot programs of the services industry, and increasing investment promotion in the advanced manufacturing industry;
3. Continuing the construction of open platforms and fully implementing the Several Measures for Promoting Trade and Investment Facilitation Reform and Innovation in the Guangdong Pilot Free Trade Zone to ensure the successful operations of open platforms, such as economic and technological development zones, special customs supervision zones, as well as Sino-foreign cooperation parks;
4. Improving investment promotion and service capabilities, ensuring the success of major investment promotion events, intensifying efforts in implementing key projects, as well as improving the mechanism for handling complaints of foreign-invested enterprises.
The introduction of the regulations has received comprehensive attention. Foreign investment agencies and relevant business associations in Guangdong have praised Guangdong's efforts in constantly promoting reform and establishing a more effective mechanism for rights and interests protection.
Kenji Shimizu, director general of the Guangzhou office of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), said that the regulations establish rules with respect to standards, government procurement, and the application procedures of work permit for high-end and professional talents; strengthen the protection of rights and interests of foreign investors and foreign-funded enterprises; as well as ensure that foreign-funded enterprises share the same investment environment as Chinese enterprises.
He also highly praised Article 7 for stipulating that the relevant provincial departments responsible for IPR protection will establish a trans-regional and trans-departmental mechanism for rapid and collaborative IPR protection. He added that the JETRO Guangzhou office will continue working closely with the Guangdong government to facilitate the further development of Japanese enterprises in the province.
Harley Seyedin, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in South China (AmCham South China), said that the regulations cover all aspects of foreign-invested enterprises' concerns, such as IPR protection and dispute handling issues, which the member enterprises of AmCham South China have always attached great importance to.
He added that the regulations highlight the equal protection of foreign investment, stipulate that access restrictions must not be set for foreign investment in areas other than the negative list of access, and improve relevant policies to protect the IPR of foreign investors. It also establishes and improves a diversified dispute resolution mechanism to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of foreign-invested enterprises.
Klaus Zenkel, vice president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China (European Chamber) and chair of the South China (Guangzhou & Shenzhen) Chapter Board, welcomed the regulations, as well as recognized it as a crucial step in addressing the differences in treatment between Chinese and foreign enterprises in Guangdong that could pave the way for greater opportunities for their member enterprises.
He added that much of the success of the regulations will be determined by how effectively provincial and municipal governments can coordinate, as well as put in place sound mechanisms to facilitate and safeguard investment into Guangdong. He affirmed that the European Chamber is ready to provide support and recommendations to all levels of government in Guangdong province regarding the implementation of the regulations.
Chen Jiang, vice secretary general of the Guangdong Association of Enterprises with Foreign Investment (GDAEFI), said that GDAEFI was invited to attend several legislation research seminars during the drafting process of the regulations and offered many opinions and suggestions on behalf of its member enterprises, which were highly valued by the regulations' drafting department.
He added that he believed that the formal enforcement of the regulations will further stimulate foreign investment in Guangdong, as well as reassure foreign-funded enterprises as they operate and thrive in China.
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