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Chinese President Xi Jinping to attend top-level business summit during visit to United States

The Honorable Henry M. Paulson, Jr.

(South China Morning Post) – In a bid to strengthen economic ties between China and the United States, President Xi Jinping will meet leading businessmen from the two countries in Seattle during his first state visit to the US this week.

In a related move, a leading think tank in the US is calling on both sides to prioritise bilateral investment treaty discussions, which it believes will help bolster business ties between Beijing and Washington amid the two parties’ growing competition over security issues.

Xi will deliver a policy speech and participate in a dialogue with 15 executives from each country at a roundtable discussion on September 23 co-hosted by the US non-profit think tank, the Paulson Institute, and a Chinese trade promotion council. The executives represent diverse industries including banking, the internet, technology, entertainment, cars and consumer goods.

With leaders from companies like Alibaba, Baidu, Microsoft and Amazon, the discussion will be moderated by Henry Paulson, former US treasury secretary and chairman of the institute.

The forum comes at a time of drastic economic change and considerable security tensions between the world’s largest economies, which are grappling over difficult issues such as cybersecurity, market access and China’s claims to the South China Sea.

“[With] growing competition between the US and China around security issues, it’s more important than ever to thicken economic interaction between the two sides,” said Evan Feigenbaum, vice-chairman of the institute. “The idea of the roundtable is for business executives on both sides to have a frank and productive discussion about the opportunities, challenges and obstacles they’re facing in one another’s markets.”

Some of the key issues and concerns from the US business community include China’s economic reforms and how they will affect the structure of its economy and opportunities for foreign businesses and competition, Feigenbaum said. Chinese companies are interested in more opportunities for investment in the US, he added.

As a non-profit organisation, the institute said it could play a unique role in fostering sustainable business ties between China and the US through connections with leaders and partnerships with organisations from both sides.

Paulson, who was also CEO of Goldman Sachs, has decades of experience working with Chinese political and business leaders and is a well-known Sino-US mediator.

“It’s the ability to bring business into the picture,” Feigenbaum said.

He gave the example of how the institute designs programmes with governments and businesses to help build investment models.

According to Feigenbaum, one of the institute’s main focus areas is bilateral trade investment between China and the US. The two nations recently exchanged revised offers for a proposed investment treaty.

The institute issued a letter on Tuesday to President Barack Obama and Xi, in which the US-China Business Council called for a “high-standard” bilateral investment treaty. Signed by 94 CEOs, including Apple’s Tim Cook and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, the letter said they hoped for “significant progress” during the visit.

“It’s a strong perception in the US that economic reform in China isn’t advancing as fast or as deeply as it can and should,” Feigenbaum said. “The number one manifestation of that is the question of [China’s] openness to foreign competition.”

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