The United States should “use every arrow” in its quiver to ensure a level commercial playing field in China, a U.S. business lobby said on Tuesday, warning that 2017 could be the toughest year in decades for American firms in the country.
China’s policies designed to support domestic companies and create national champions have narrowed the space for foreign companies, the American Chamber of Commerce in China said in its annual business climate report.
The White House has said U.S and Chinese officials are fleshing out a pledge by leaders Donald Trump and Xi Jinping for a 100-day plan to cut the U.S. trade deficit with China, which reached $347 billion last year.
But the chamber said it hoped more attention would be paid to market access for American firms in China.
“Right now basically we are recommending everything you have in your quiver - please use every arrow possible, with the understanding that some of these points of leverage could be counterproductive to us,” chamber chairman William Zarit said, referring to possible backlash from Beijing.
He was speaking at a briefing on the report.
U.S. business groups want U.S. officials to take measures against Beijing on market imbalances, but not push the world’s two largest economies toward a trade war.
Nonetheless, more vociferous complaints from the American business community mark a shift from years past, when many companies eschewed the idea of forceful action by Washington for fear of retribution by China.
Foreign technology companies, in particular, fear what they see as Beijing’s plans to pump billions of dollars in subsidies into domestic competitors and push regulations that could force the surrender of key technology or hit competitiveness.
“With uncertainty stemming from political and economic transitions in both the U.S. and China, perceptions of a deteriorating investment environment for foreign companies in China, and a slowing economy, 2017 will likely be one of the most challenging years in decades for U.S. companies in China,” the chamber said in its report.
U.S. business leaders also worry that Trump’s focus on curtailing North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes could undercut U.S. commercial interests in China. Last week, Trump tweeted that Beijing would get a better trade deal if it helped resolve the U.S. problem with Pyongyang.
“I’m sorry to see there is a possibility we may lose some momentum on helping to level the playing field with China in our economic relationship, due to the situation in North Korea, if there is some kind of trade-off,” Zarit said. (Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)