China Premier Li Keqiang discusses trade and economic issues in NY

Arnstein & Lehr Attorney Ronald Fieldstone

Ronald R. Fieldstone

I had the privilege of attending the New York Economic Club Dinner on September 20, 2016, for Premier Li Keqiang of the People’s Republic of China. The Premier held this position since March of 2013 and has been very active in the Chinese government since the 1990s. He was extremely engaging and articulate in his speech and responsive to the questions posed to him. This blog summarizes some of the key points he raised involving U.S./American trade and the economic issues, as well as the current economic climate in China.

Investment and Regulations

Under the Premier’s leadership, he claims he has abolished 40% of the regulations that have restricted foreign investment and has improved and encouraged more responsibility with respect to investment in China. He indicated that 90% of American companies made profits in China last year and that Chinese company investment in the U.S. has increased dramatically in the first half of 2016 compared to 2015. He credited Dr. Kissinger, who introduced him at the conference, with opening up trade to China, and he confirmed Dr. Kissinger’s resolve to expand common grounds and resolve differences among China and the U.S.

Economic and Social Progress

The Premier indicated that China is making enormous economic and social progress to have peaceful solutions which are based upon international engagement and a stable environment. He revealed that China will follow the path of peaceful development and that China is still a developing country in the less developed regions in the South and West and working on stabilizing its growth. He indicated China is responsible for 50% of the world’s growth. He signified that China is willing to uphold its internal order to uphold the United Nations Charter. He hopes China has a greater voice in developing countries and continues to promote economic balance and social progress. He specified that his country needs to work together and treat everyone as equals; a world of cultural differences, but with mutual respect.

He indicated the necessity of a win-win relationship with the United States and continuing a strategic policy in the following decades where China becomes more modern and developed. He also quoted the famous Biblical statement that states “no country should do unto others that they would not do to themselves.” That got a laugh from the audience.

Response to Some Panel Member Questions

  1. In response to questions from panel members, the Premier indicated that China has made $1.7 trillion dollars of foreign investments and is now one of the largest investors in foreign countries in the world. He emphasized that China has advanced technology and expertise. He indicated there is a process to open up and seek wider cooperation. He again emphasized mutual respect rather than distrust and, in particular, with respect to currency rate issues.
  2. In response to a political question about the current election, the Premier indicated that media coverage tends to sensationalize stories. He stated that China has no basis to devalue the currency since that is not good for growth. He said their current valuation was not intended to increase exports. He emphasized the number of Chinese tourist trips to the United States per year which numbered 2.6 million last year and the fact that 600,000 Chinese students study in the United States.
  3. In response to questions about unfair trade agreements, he responded that no matter who is elected to the United States presidency, his goal is to have positive growth in relations and an increase in globalization which would benefit both the United States and China. He indicated there is an important issue regarding mutual dependence with the United States and China needing to reverse the trend of trade conflicts. He also emphasized China’s involvement in the Paris Treaty for climate change and the commitment to likewise try to overcome global warming.

He emphasized drivers of the economy such as infrastructure development, underemployment and the streamlining of administration and relaxing regulation. He indicated the number of new businesses in China that are being opened every day have increased dramatically. He specified that China should continue to maintain at least a 4% to 5% growth for the coming years.

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