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SelectUSA summit to greet largest group from China

Chinese investors continue to show strong interest in the United States with the largest delegation to next week's 2016 SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington.
The 150-strong group from the Chinese mainland will be led by US Ambassador to China Max Baucus. The vast majority will be attending the summit for the first time, according to Vinai Thummalapally, executive director of SelectUSA, a federal government initiative to attract foreign direct investment into the US.

In addition, there will be a 20-strong delegation from Hong Kong.

The annual summit, first launched in 2013, will be held at the Washington Hilton on June 19-21, with nearly 2,400 participants from 70 markets and the US. Thummalapally on Wednesday described this year's meeting as "oversubscribed".

US President Barack Obama will deliver a keynote speech on Monday, while Secretary of State John Kerry and five other cabinet secretaries will also address the gathering. Some 50 government and business leaders will speak at various sessions throughout the summit, whose theme this year is "The Innovation Advantage".

Stefan Selig, under-secretary of commerce for international trade, dismissed the notion that a slowing Chinese economy is dampening the enthusiasm of Chinese investors.

"We would expect to see robust and strong Chinese investment to continue despite macroeconomic trends," he said on Wednesday. He noted that the growth percentage of the Chinese economy is misleading because the economy is getting so much bigger, meaning the aggregate economic value of the growth has continued to grow.

He said that Chinese officials voiced concerns over the CFIUS (Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States) reviews of Chinese FDI at the eighth round of China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing early this month.

Selig emphasized that the reviews focus exclusively on national security concerns and not broad economic or policy interests, noting that only a very small percentage of foreign and Chinese investments are reviewed by CFIUS.
"I don't think what we are doing at CFIUS should be construed in any way as a deterrent to foreign investment here," he said.

China also promised at the S&ED that it will soon present the US with a new negative list for a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), but many experts believe that a BIT is highly unlikely under the remaining months of the Obama administration, given that it is trying to make a last-ditch effort to press Congress to ratify the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade agreement between 12 Pacific Rim countries.

At a Tuesday meeting on Asia-Pacific economic integration at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, most people didn't believe the TPP would be ratified by the US Congress during the lame-duck session.

Selig emphasized the US was committed to aBIT with China. "We are awaiting China's next negative list. We are hopeful that it is ambitious. And if it is ambitious, I think we actually have a pathway to making a tremendous amount of progress on that BIT in this administration," he said.

Chinese FDI in the US grew to more than $15 billion in 2015, setting a record high, according to an updated New Neighbors report released in April by the Rhodium Group and the National Committee on US-China Relations.

The number of Chinese affiliated companies in the US exceeded 1,900 by the end of 2015, extending across more than 80 percent of congressional districts, or 362 of 435. The number of Americans employed by these Chinese affiliated companies rose by 12 percent in 2015 to 90,000.

The report predicted that with more than $30 billion already in pending deals and projects, 2016 is likely to be another record year for Chinese FDI in the US.

The report cautioned that US regulators and lawmakers have a responsibility to guarantee that legitimate concerns about Chinese FDI are addressed. "At the same time, they also need to ensure that political rhetoric and politicization do not needlessly impede job creation, investment inflows, particularly in an election year," the report said.

Contact the writer at chenweihua@chinadailyusa.com.



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