General Motors, Cisco, Ford, IBM, Motorola Sign Deals with China

Part of 30 deals between U.S. and Chinese companies

American and Chinese firms will sign on June 17 more than 30 deals worth billions of dollars ahead of a high-level meeting that could formally endorse negotiations for a bilateral investment treaty, officials said. The inking of the agreements will be witnessed by Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Qishan and Commerce Minister Chen Deming, who are leading a cabinet team for two days of talks with the U.S. side led by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke.

Among the U.S. companies that would be forging the deals are General Motors, Cisco, Ford, IBM, Oracle and Motorola while the Chinese side will include dominant local mobile operator China Mobile, he said.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, led by its president, Tom Donohue, will host the deals' signing ceremony, which is expected to give a psychological boost to the U.S.-China "strategic economic dialogue" (SED) beginning June 17 at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, east of Washington. "This (deals' signing) is not a formal part of the SED process but it is consistent with that spirit," Brilliant said. "This doesn't displace the need however for there to be real progress on the macro issues that the two governments are talking about," he added.

With their economies in crisis, the top officials from the U.S. and China will grapple with wide ranging issues -- financial sector reforms, currency concerns, protectionist pressures, energy security as well as trade and product safety, and investment -- at the Annapolis meeting. The meeting is expected to announce the launch of formal negotiations for a key bilateral investment treaty, business officials said.

If the two powers decide to pursue the treaty negotiations, benefits could include enhanced and non-discriminatory market access for investments, more transparent laws, and guarantee of due process for investors. Chinese investors are reportedly concerned about a U.S. investment review process that Washington says is targeted to address acquisitions that raise real national security concerns.

American companies fear that China's interest in foreign investment is no longer as robust as before, that foreign investment regulations are opaque and seem to be designed to favor Chinese "national champions," U.S. officials said. These concerns include Beijing's implementation of the new anti-monopoly law, protection of specific Chinese competitors rather than competition in general and treatment of foreign firms more harshly than Chinese firms, they said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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