Beijing’s trade strategy: U.S. firms want a level playing field


Photo: Xinhua

Transparency and a level playing field are among the factors that may determine the extent to which American companies embrace China’s global trade strategy, “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI), as they adopt a wait-and-see stance in the wake of United States trade tariffs.

The U.S. government has yet to officially endorse BRI – China’s massive cross-continental programme to develop infrastructure projects over maritime and land routes – but American companies are free to bid for projects in the industries they choose.

“The U.S. government is not standing in the way of U.S. companies getting involved in BRI projects,” says Jack E. Lange, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Hong Kong.

“We expect enterprising companies involved in relevant industries – such as construction, engineering, logistics, heavy equipment manufacturing, finance and professional services – will continue to explore opportunities. But only for so long as they think that the opportunities are reasonably open and the playing field is reasonably level.

“As a practical matter, there are significant constraints on the ability of American and other non-Chinese companies to participate in Chinese-sponsored projects. There is often little visibility at the early stages of these projects, when many of the contractors and suppliers are being brought on board.

“Chinese players have many advantages in projects with financing from Chinese sources. Even where tendering is open and competitive, American companies are often competing with giant Chinese [state-owned enterprises] that benefit from subsidies and other state support.”

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