US ambassador to Beijing Gary Locke unveiled his vision for Sino-US trade ties on Tuesday, pledging more openness to Chinese companies while drawing fire from analysts by repeating his previous criticisms of Beijing's business climate and currency policy.
Speaking at a gathering of the American Chamber of Commerce and the US-China Business Council, Locke clarified his mission as helping double US exports by 2015, increasing Chinese investment in the US and ensuring that US companies receive fair treatment in China.
"My top priority here is to work with the American business community in China to support President Barack Obama's job-creating efforts," Locke said, adding that the US welcomes a strong, prosperous and successful China that "plays a greater role in world affairs."
The ambassador saw China's economic reform, which includes expanding domestic consumption, as an opportunity for US exports.
"It will be a relationship defined less by China making and US consumers taking, and more by empowered Chinese consumers importing more goods and services," Locke said.
He urged Chinese authorities to push for progress in economic reform and noted that a "frustrating" business environment will not help the process.
According to Locke, foreign investors face "substantial restriction" in industries in China from "aviation to healthcare, to financial services and several others."
Locke pin-pointed credit cards as an example, saying China's restrictions have created a domestic monopoly and have shut out foreign credit card companies that would offer competitive and customer-responsive products.
Zhao Wei, director of the Institute of International Economics of Zhejiang University, told the Global Times that China needs to look in-depth at certain sectors to facilitate economic reform.
"Monopolies in some industries like banking, oil and railways need to be broken to improve the competitiveness of the economy so as to provide better services with fair prices," Zhao said.
However, Zhong Wei, director of the Financial Research Center at Beijing Normal University, deemed Locke's criticisms as being "groundless and not worth refuting."
"In sectors such as energy, telecommunications and finance, which are the fundamental interests of a country, few nations in the world have high openness. The US is no exception," Zhong said.
Saying the US is still reluctant to recognize China's full market economy status, Zhong suggested that Washington still lacks sincerity in building economic ties with Beijing.
In 2005, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation failed in its acquisition bid for Unocal Corporation, a US oil company, despite a top bid of $185 billion, after 64 members of the US Congress lobbied against the purchase, saying it would threaten US national security.
In February, a US government panel advised China's telecom giant Huawei to drop its investment plan in US tech company 3Leaf Systems, again citing national security as the reason.
"China has been strictly carrying out its obligations under the conventions of the World Trade Organization, but some Chinese companies have faced discriminatory policies in the US, mostly citing their State-owned background or threat to national security," said Song Hong, a researcher at the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Regarding the criticisms, Locke said on Tuesday that US authorities would encourage Chinese investment and help Chinese companies prosper so as to create jobs in the US.
He said the Obama administration had recently adopted a new initiative called Select USA, which was the first coordinated federal effort to aggressively pursue business investment while cutting red tape and removing barriers.
Locke said he will lead five sector-specific trade missions to China's emerging cities during 2012 to help local businesses better understand the benefits and ease of investing in the US.
Separately, the ambassador called for the appreciation of the yuan, which he had dong several times before being chosen as ambassador. He also urged the Chinese government to strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights.
Locke's remarks came at a delicate time, as the US has just seen its credit rating downgraded and the eurozone battles a severe debt crisis.
While Locke urged China to help global growth more as the world's second largest economy, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao warned earlier this month at the Summer Davos forum in Dalian that developed nations should not rely on China to bail out the world economy, and they must cut deficits and free up their own markets.