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July 12, 2013

US, China to Restart Investment Talks

by Scott Stearns

The United States and China have agreed to restart negotiations on a bilateral investment treaty that could expand Chinese market access for American investors. The agreement came during talks between senior Chinese and U.S. officials in Washington.

This is the first time China has agreed to talks on a treaty covering foreign investment in all sectors of its economy. The move shows Beijing's new leaders recognize that future growth will not be met by models of the past, said U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew.

"They know they need more market-oriented features to their economy, and we need to open markets to each other," Lew said. "We welcome Chinese investment in the United States. We welcome the opportunity to have U.S. investment in China."

Beijing and Washington agreed to increase cooperation on financial regulations, law enforcement, over-the-counter derivatives and accounting standards -- all important steps forward, said Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang.

"The United States welcomes Chinese financial institutions to invest in the U.S. market. Mutual understanding and trust is an important prerequisite for a win-win cooperation between our two major countries."

With two-way trade of nearly $500 billion last year, a bilateral investment treaty could mean big gains for both economies. But it also would require approval by two-thirds of the U.S. Senate where many members have been critical of Chinese cyber-espionage, which experts say costs the United States hundreds of billions of dollars a year. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns.

"The technological ties that bind us together also introduce a new challenge to our bilateral relationship," Burns said. "During our engagement this week, we underscored that the cyber-enabled theft of trade secrets, intellectual property, and confidential business information is unacceptable."

China denies the cyber allegations and has become increasingly outspoken on the issue following leaks by the former U.S. intelligence analyst Edward Snowden that revealed widespread U.S. surveillance of Chinese targets. Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi.

"China is a victim of hacking attacks," Yang said. "China's view is that the relevant international cyber rules should be developed by the U.N. to help uphold cyber security in all countries."

On rival maritime claims in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, Yang says China hopes the United States will support efforts to resolve the disputes through dialogue.

"Both sides are of the view that efforts to build a new model of major country relationship should start in the Asia-Pacific," Yang said. "The two sides decided to hold the next round of Asia-Pacific consultations this fall and jointly uphold peace, stability and development in the Asia-Pacific."

During these talks, U.S. and Chinese officials also discussed the war in Syria, the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan, and the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.