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US presses China to open to foreign investment
by Staff Writers
Singapore (AFP) April 26, 2012

The US on Thursday urged China to open its markets to foreign investors as "aggressively" as Beijing has spread its own economic influence into other countries.

Ron Kirk said it was only fair that China allowed foreign investment into the country as other nations had not hindered Chinese economic pursuits in theirs.

"What we'd like to see is China fulfil all of the commitments it made relevant to opening its market, restructuring its economy when it joined the WTO (World Trade Organization)," he told a news conference in Singapore.

"That has always been our goal, it's just for China to be as aggressive about meeting its responsibilities in terms of giving not just US producers and exporters... but all of the members of the WTO, as open an access to its markets as it has enjoyed."

China has invested heavily into various regions around the world, notably in developing economies in Africa and Latin America, in a move seen by detractors as a way to gain political influence and clout in the regions.

Beijing's non-financial overseas direct investment (ODI) totalled $16.6 billion in the first quarter of 2012, up 94.5 percent year-on-year, the official China Daily quoted the commerce ministry as announcing.

The money was spent in 1,096 overseas companies in 109 countries and regions around the world, the report stated, adding that China's non-financial ODI totalled $338.5 billion as of end-March 2012.

In contrast, foreign direct investment into China fell 2.8 percent year-on-year to $29.48 billion in the first three months of 2012, according to the China Daily.

China also possesses the world's largest foreign exchange reserves, which stood at $3.305 trillion in March.

A Gallup poll published in February stated that Americans viewed China as the world's leading economic power today despite the US economy's position as the global leader in terms of gross domestic product.

Economic relations between the US and China received a boost after US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner heaped praise on Beijing last week for easing its grip on the yuan, as well as for Chinese capital market reforms.

Beijing's trading partners have long criticised the yuan exchange rate, saying it is kept artificially low to fuel a flow of cheap Chinese exports.

Despite Geithner's kind words for Beijing, Kirk said "issues related to currency" remained on the table in US-China discussions, with the next one being the Strategic and Economic Dialogue which takes place in Beijing May 3-4.

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