BEIJING: China’s rubber-stamp parliament approved a foreign investment law on Friday that was fast-tracked and may serve as an olive branch in trade talks with the United States.
The legislation aims to address long-running grievances from foreign businesses, but the US and European chambers of commerce have voiced concerns that they were not given enough time to give their input.
The National People’s Congress voted 2,929 in favour of the law — with eight against and eight abstentions – barely three months after a first draft was debated, an unusually quick turnaround for the legislature, which meets once a year.
The move comes as US and Chinese negotiators have held complex talks aimed at resolving a months-long trade war that has pounded businesses with tariffs on $360 billion in two-way commerce.
US President Donald Trump said Thursday the negotiations should wrap up within four weeks, adding: “We are getting what we have to get.”
China’s top trade negotiator, Liu He, held phone talks with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, with the official Xinhua news agency saying they made “substantial progress”.
The bill will eliminate the requirement for foreign enterprises to transfer proprietary technology to Chinese joint-venture partners and protect against “illegal government interference” — major sticking points in the trade negotiations.
It also promises to abolish the “case-by-case approvals” process for foreign investments, officials say.
The changes will ensure that foreign investors will enjoy the same privileges as Chinese companies in most sectors, except those placed on a “negative list”.
Beijing uses negative lists to identify areas that are either off-limits to non-state businesses or that require them to go through an application and approval process.
The American Chamber of Commerce in China said in a statement this week that it “welcomes and appreciates this legislative effort to improve the foreign investment climate”.
But it added that it was concerned that “such an important and potentially far-reaching piece of legislation will be enacted without extensive consultation and input from industry stakeholders”.
The provisions in the legislation were “quite general” and failed to address a number of concerns from foreign firms, including “the potential for unequal treatment” of businesses and the “broad scope” of national security reviews, the chamber said.
$8.1b arms sales to ‘deter Iranian aggression’
WASHINGTON: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that the US administration was bypassing Congress to sell $8.1 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan to “deter Iranian aggression.”
“These sales will support our allies, enhance Middle East stability and help these nations to deter and defend themselves from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said in a statement, hours after a senator announced the sale and sharply criticized it.
Iran ‘Threat’: US orders new troops to ME!
WASHINGTON: The United States announced Friday it was deploying 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East in response to what the Pentagon called a “campaign” of recent attacks approved by Iran’s top leadership.
The escalation of the US military presence follows a decision in early May to send an aircraft carrier strike force and B-52 bombers in a show of force against what Washington’s leaders believed was an imminent Iranian plan to attack US assets.
And it comes as the Trump administration is planning to bypass congressional restrictions to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, a close US ally and Iran’s arch-enemy in the region.
“This is a prudent response to credible threats from Iran,” said acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
President Donald Trump, who approved the deployment, called it “protective.”
“We want to have protection in the Middle East,” Trump told reporters as he prepared to set off on a trip to Japan.
“We’re going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective,” Trump added. “It’ll be about 1,500 people.”
The new deployment includes reconnaissance aircraft, fighter jets, and engineers. Six hundred of the personnel belong to a Patriot missile defense battalion that had its deployment in the region extended.
Pentagon officials said the move was necessary after multiple threatening actions and several small-in-scope attacks in May by Iranian forces, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and “proxy” forces.
Those include a rocket launched into the Green Zone in Baghdad, explosive devices that damaged four tankers in Fujairah near the entrance to the Gulf, and a Houthi drone attack against a Saudi oil installation.
The initial threat came at the beginning of May, according to Rear Admiral Michael Gilday, director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.
The US caught the IRGC attempting to covertly deploy “modified dhows capable of launching cruise missiles,” he said, referring to small traditional boats.
“We view this as a campaign,” Gilday told reporters.
The moves “are all part of a dangerous and escalatory strategy by Iran to threaten global trade and to destabilize the region.”
“We believe with a high degree of confidence that this stems back to the leadership of Iran at the highest levels, and that all of the attacks… have been attributed to Iran through their proxies or their forces,” Gilday said, citing still-secret US intelligence.
US officials said the aim was both to extend greater protection to the 70,000 US forces deployed in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and to deliver a message to Iran to refrain from attacks.
“We think that through a combination of a very measured deployment of assets as well as public messaging, we are again trying to underscore that we are not seeking hostilities with Iran,” he said.
Gilday said the US moves have had some impact. When Washington first learned of Tehran’s alleged intent to launch attacks, it delivered a stern warning to Tehran “within hours” through an unnamed third party.
Since then, the threat of the missile-bearing dhows appears to have subsided.
However, the Trump administration continues to draw criticism that it has not clearly shown the need for an escalation.
Members of Congress were also angered that Trump was overriding their block on delivery of lethal weapons to the Saudis.
“More tactics with absolutely no strategy,” tweeted Democratic Senator Chris Murphy.
“All that is happening now is escalatory move after escalatory move. Trump has ZERO plan for how this ends, and that should scare the hell out of everyone.”
But Pentagon officials stressed that the US does not seek war with Iran.
“We do not see these additional capabilities as encouraging hostilities. We see them as defensive in nature,” said acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Katie Wheelbarger.
“Our policy remains an economic and diplomatic effort to bring Iran back to the negotiating table to encourage a comprehensive deal that addresses the range of their destabilizing behavior in the region.”
At UN, Pakistan chastises India for rights abuse in Kashmir
UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan on Thursday brought into sharp focus of the world community the atrocities being committed by Indian occupation forces in Jammu and Kashmir, and urged the UN Security Council to resolve long-standing conflicts on its agenda.
“Inaction by the Security Council in cases of foreign aggression and occupation comes at a high human cost,”Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi said in an open Council debate on ‘Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict’, referring to the continuing violations of International Humanitarian Law by warring parties with impunity.
“In Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” the Pakistani envoy said, “the occupying forces continue to show utter disregard for human life by systematically violating the fundamental norms of international humanitarian law and by using civilians as human shields.
“Worse, perpetrators who commit such crimes are not only protected under black laws, but are honoured by the military command.”
The rules of conduct in armed conflict are clearly codified in the 1949 Geneva Conventions and additional protocols and constitute the bedrock of international humanitarian law, she said. Yet this law continues to be flouted whenever and wherever hostilities break, with women bearing the brunt of the atrocities.
“Whether it is plausible deniability or abuse, the grim reality is, when the beast of conflict roars, legal regimes fall silent,” Ambassador Lodhi told the Security Council.
Today, she said, targeted attacks, sexual violence, forced conscription, torture, indiscriminate killings and gross human rights violations were used cynically as tools of war in conflicts.