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  • Author: Uri Dadush, Pauline Weil
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: Despite tensions over China’s discriminatory business practices, China’s trade continues to thrive, and the country has taken over from the United States as the first destination for foreign investment. American and European businesses continue to be engaged in China’s large and growing market, even amid a trade war between China and the United States. Drawing on surveys of companies and international comparisons, we show that – contrary to the prevailing narrative – China’s business practices have improved significantly in recent years. China’s business environment is today generally more favourable than that in other large countries at similar levels of development and, in some though certainly not all aspects, is in line with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average. Differences over geopolitics and human rights must be addressed, but it is clear that trade and investment agreements conditioned on accelerated reforms in China would yield substantial dividends. The benefits of such deals would accrue not only to foreign investors in China and exporters to China, but also to consumers and importers in the European Union and, especially, in the US, where punitive tariffs on China remain in effect. Critical aspects in the negotiations would include better access for American and European investors to China’s market for services and improved enforcement of rules and regulations in China. As in many middle-income countries, uneven enforcement of the law (rather than the law itself) remains a critical problem in China.
  • Topic: Development, Bilateral Relations, European Union, Business , Investment
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Alicia Garcia-Herrero
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: As China’s economic weight continues to grow, so does the global impact of its companies. Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) produce a large share of Chinese goods and services. Given their importance both in China and increasingly globally, it should be measured whether SOEs introduce distortions into markets and how significant those distortions are. Foreign governments negotiating trade or investment deals with China need this information so they can better measure how far China is from offering a level playing field to foreign companies on its domestic market. In this context, competitive neutrality is an important working concept that can be used to asses how far a market is from being a competitive environment. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development defines a framework of competitive neutrality as one in which public and private companies face the same set of rules, and no contact with the state gives competitive advantage to any market participant. Quantifying the concept is difficult, but we provide a preliminary measure of the lack of competitive neutrality in relation to Chinese SOEs. In particular, we focus on debt and tax neutrality and compare the situation for Chinese state-owned and private firms on aggregate and sectoral levels. Our results support the view that China’s competitive environment is generally poor. The advantageous position of SOEs in China is true for most economic sectors, though to a variable extent, with the automotive sector one of the furthest away from competitive neutrality. A working measure of competitive neutrality applied in China could help improve the level playing field for foreign companies in China. It could also be applied globally given the very large size and global footprint of Chinese SOEs. The concept could even be introduced in a potential reform of the World Trade Organisation.
  • Topic: Business , Trade, Neutrality, State-Owned Enterprises
  • Political Geography: China, Asia