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Brief introduction of the Foreign Investment Law

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Brief introduction of the Foreign Investment Law

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The Foreign Investment Law of the People's Republic of China (“the Foreign Investment Law”), as adopted at the 2nd Session of the Thirteenth National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China on March 15, 2019, will come into force on January 1, 2020.

As a result, the Law of the People's Republic of China on Chinese-foreign Equity Joint Ventures, the Law of the People's Republic of China on Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprises, and the Law of the People's Republic of China on Chinese-foreign Cooperative Joint Ventures (jointly called as “the Three Foreign Investment Laws”) shall be replaced accordingly. The Foreign Investment Law will become the basic law to stipulate the foreign investment relationships in China. 

 

Meaning of the law

 

Generally speaking, the generation of the Foreign Investment Law complies with the trend of our times.

The purposes of the Foreign Investment Law which are further expanding the country's opening up, vigorously boosting foreign investment and protecting the lawful rights and interests of foreign investors are also the essential function of the said law. Before the Foreign Investment Law, the Three Foreign Investment Laws undertake the same missions and duties.

However, with the new phase of our opening up, special functions are demanded to be acted by law. One of the main demands of the foreign investors who invest in China is their legal rights to be protected by the Chinese government. To offer an effective protection is also the way to attract more foreign investment to China which complies likewise with our basic national policy of our further expanding the country’s opening up. In this situation, the introduction of the Foreign Investment Law has its new mission and duty of the new era.

     In recent years, the external economic environment that China faces has changed a lot. China now is confronted with especially the trade disputes and conflicts with the western countries. In this circumstances, how to express more precisely our attitude of opening up, how to promote the foreign investment in China and how to dispel the foreign investors’ misgivings and worries become our first considerations. The Chinese government has much publicity about the external economic policies. However, the investors demand a protection on a legal level which gives a prominent and realistic meaning to the generation of the Foreign Investment Law.

 

General introduction

 

The Foreign Investment Law has 6 Chapters, including General Provisions, Investment Promotion, Investment Protection, Investment Administration, Legal Liability, Supplemental Provisions and General Provisions, and 42 Articles.

    Along with all the aspects, the administrative system of pre-establishment national treatment plus negative list to foreign investment, the assurance of foreign investment’s fair competition in China, and intellectual property rights protection are the three main sections that gain the most attention.

1

The administrative system of pre-establishment national treatment plus negative list to foreign investment

According to Article 4 of the Foreign Investment Law,

“The state applies the administrative system of pre-establishment national treatment plus negative list to foreign investment. ‘Pre-establishment national treatment’ as mentioned in the preceding paragraph means the treatment accorded to foreign investors and their investments no less favorable to that accorded to domestic investors and their investments at the stage of investment access; and ‘negative list’ as mentioned in the preceding paragraph means a special administrative measure for access of foreign investment in specific fields as imposed by the state. The state accords national treatment to foreign investment outside of the negative list.”

And Article 28 stipulates that

“A foreign investor may not invest in a field which is prohibited by the foreign investment access negative list from investment. To invest in a field restricted by the foreign investment access negative list from investment, a foreign investor shall meet the investment conditions set out in the negative list. For fields outside of the foreign investment access negative list, investment administration shall be conducted under the principle of equal treatment to domestic and foreign investment.”

To complete the administrative system of pre-establishment national treatment plus negative list, the Foreign Investment Law also establishes a foreign investment information reporting system and a foreign investment security review system.

According to Article 34,

“The state establishes a foreign investment information reporting system. A foreign investor or foreign-funded enterprise shall submit investment information to the commerce department through the enterprise registration system and the enterprise credit information publicity system.”

And Article 35,

“The state establishes a foreign investment security review system to conduct a security review of foreign investment that impacts or may impact the national security.”

Thus, the system of case to case examination and approval under the Three Foreign Investment Laws shall be ceased to apply with the Foreign Investment Law coming into force.

2
The assurance of foreign investment’s fair competition in China

As to the assurance of foreign investment’s fair competition in China, besides the Article 3 as a general provision which stipulates that:

“The state implements high-level investment liberalization and facilitation policies, establishes and improves the foreign investment promotion mechanisms, and builds a stable, transparent, and foreseeable investment environment with a level playing field.”,

there are also other aspects worth mentioning. Such as Article 9

“The state’s various policies to support the development of enterprises shall equally apply to foreign-funded enterprises according to the law.”;

Article 15

“The state guarantees that foreign-funded enterprises equally participate in standard development work according to the law, and reinforces information disclosure and public scrutiny in the development of standards. The compulsory standards developed by the state shall equally apply to foreign-funded enterprises.”;

Article 16

“The state guarantees that foreign-funded enterprises participate in government procurement activities through fair competition according to the law. Products manufactured and services provided by foreign-funded enterprises within China shall be equally treated in government procurement according to the law.”;

and Article 24

“In developing regulatory documents involving foreign investment, the people's governments at all levels and their relevant departments shall comply with laws and regulations; and in the absence of any basis in laws and administrative regulations, such documents shall not derogate from the lawful rights and interests or increase the obligations of foreign-funded enterprises, shall not set any market access and withdrawal conditions, and shall not intervene the normal production and distribution activities of foreign-funded enterprises.”

From these articles, we can see the determination of the Chinese government to show its good faith in offering a fair competition environment in China for the foreign investors. 

3
Intellectual property rights protection

To protect intellectual property rights, the Foreign Investment Law contains two aspects, namely Article 22

“The state protects the intellectual property rights of foreign investors and foreign-funded enterprises, and protects the lawful rights and interests of owners of intellectual property rights and relevant right holders; and for infringements of intellectual property rights, strictly holds the infringers legally liable according to the law. The state encourages technology cooperation on the basis of free will and business rules in the process of foreign investment. Technology cooperation conditions shall be determined under the principle of fairness by all investing parties through equal consultation. No administrative agency or its employee may force the transfer of any technology by administrative means.”

and Article 23

“Administrative agencies and their employees shall keep confidential, according to the law, the trade secrets of foreign investors and foreign-funded enterprises to which they have access in performing their duties, and neither divulge nor illegally provide others with such secrets.”

The Foreign Investment Law has not only stipulated the general protection of the intellectual property rights, but also intensified the legal responsibility system, especially the responsibilities of the administrative agencies, which is a brave measure to regulate from inside the government. 

 

 

Conclusion

To conclude, the fact that the Foreign Investment Law offers more protections and conveniences to the business environment, capital market, intellectual property rights protections etc. for the foreign investors will increase enormously the foreign investor’s confidence to our market and will promote the healthy and ordered development of the Chinese market economy.

The enforcement of the Foreign Investment Law will attract more foreign investors to China, and domestic enterprises and foreign-invested enterprises will have mutual promotion and progress under fair competitions. 

外商投资法简介

 

2019年3月15日,十三届全国人大二次会议表决通过了《中华人民共和国外商投资法》(以下简称“外商投资法”)。该法律将自2020年1月1日起施行。

《中外合资经营企业法》、《中外合作经营企业法》和《外资企业法》(统称“三资企业法”)将被外商投资法所替代。外商投资法将成为调整中国境内外商投资关系的基本法。

 

一、外商投资法的意义

总体而言,外商投资法应时代潮流而生。外商投资法的立法目的与主要作用是进一步加强国家对外开放力度,大力促进外商投资,保护外国投资者的合法权益。在外商投资法之前,“三资企业法”履行了相同的使命和义务。

然而,随着改革开放进入新的阶段,我们对法律发挥的作用产生了更为特殊的需求。在中国,外国投资者的主要需求之一就是中国政府保护其在中国的合法权利。而提供有效保护措施,能吸引更多外商到中国投资,这符合我们进一步扩大对外开放的基本国策。在这样的背景情况下,外商投资法的出台有其新时代的使命和责任。

近年来,中国所面对的外部经济环境发生了很大的变化。中国现在首要面对的是与西方国家日益明显的贸易争端与冲突。在这种情况下,如何更准确地表达我们的对外开放态度,如何促进外商在华投资以及如何消除外国投资者的疑虑和担忧成为我们首要的考虑因素。尽管中国政府对对外经济政策有很多的宣传,但是投资者们更多追求的是法律层面上的保护,因此外商投资法的产生具有突出的现实意义。

      

 二、外商投资法概述

外商投资法共分6章,包括总则、投资促进、投资保护、投资管理、法律责任、附则,共42条。

其中,外商投资准入前国民待遇加负面清单管理制度、外商投资在中国的公平竞争保障和知识产权保护是外商投资法中最受关注的三个部分。

1.  外商投资准入前国民待遇加负面清单管理制度

根据外商投资法第4条:“前款所称准入前国民待遇,是指在投资准入阶段给予外国投资者及其投资不低于本国投资者及其投资的待遇;所称负面清单,是指国家规定在特定领域对外商投资实施的准入特别管理措施。国家对负面清单之外的外商投资,给予国民待遇。”

根据外商投资法第28条规定:“外商投资准入负面清单规定禁止投资的领域,外国投资者不得投资。外商投资准入负面清单规定限制投资的领域,外国投资者进行投资应当符合负面清单规定的条件。外商投资准入负面清单以外的领域,按照内外资一致的原则实施管理。”

为了完善外商投资准入前国民待遇加负面清单管理制度,外商投资法还建立了外商投资信息报告制度及外商投资安全审查制度。外商投资法第34条规定:“国家建立外商投资信息报告制度。外国投资者或者外商投资企业应当通过企业登记系统以及企业信用信息公示系统向商务主管部门报送投资信息。”第35条规定:“国家建立外商投资安全审查制度,对影响或者可能影响国家安全的外商投资进行安全审查。”

这就意味着,“三资企业法”的个案审批制度,在外商投资法生效后将不再适用。

2.  外商投资在中国的公平竞争保障

为了保障外商投资在中国的公平竞争,除了外商投资法第3条“国家坚持对外开放的基本国策,鼓励外国投资者依法在中国境内投资。国家实行高水平投资自由化便利化政策,建立和完善外商投资促进机制,营造稳定、透明、可预期和公平竞争的市场环境。”这一一般规定外,还有其他几个方面值得注意。外商投资法第9条规定:“外商投资企业依法平等适用国家支持企业发展的各项政策。”第15条规定:“国家保障外商投资企业依法平等参与标准制定工作,强化标准制定的信息公开和社会监督。国家制定的强制性标准平等适用于外商投资企业。”第16条规定:“国家保障外商投资企业依法通过公平竞争参与政府采购活动。政府采购依法对外商投资企业在中国境内生产的产品、提供的服务平等对待。”第24条规定:“各级人民政府及其有关部门制定涉及外商投资的规范性文件,应当符合法律法规的规定;没有法律、行政法规依据的,不得减损外商投资企业的合法权益或者增加其义务,不得设置市场准入和退出条件,不得干预外商投资企业的正常生产经营活动。”

从上述条文中我们可以看到中国政府决心为外国投资者在中国营造公平竞争环境的诚意。

 3. 知识产权保护

为了保护知识产权,外商投资法主要囊括如下两个方面:首先,外商投资法第22条规定:“国家保护外国投资者和外商投资企业的知识产权,保护知识产权权利人和相关权利人的合法权益;对知识产权侵权行为,严格依法追究法律责任。国家鼓励在外商投资过程中基于自愿原则和商业规则开展技术合作。技术合作的条件由投资各方遵循公平原则平等协商确定。行政机关及其工作人员不得利用行政手段强制转让技术。”其次,第23条规定:“行政机关及其工作人员对于履行职责过程中知悉的外国投资者、外商投资企业的商业秘密,应当依法予以保密,不得泄露或者非法向他人提供。”

外商投资法不仅规定了对知识产权的一般保护,而且还强化了法律责任制,特别是行政机关的责任,这是一项从政府内部进行规制的严格措施。

 

三、结论

综上所述,外商投资法将为外国投资者提供更多的商业环境,资本市场,知识产权保护等方面的保障和便利,这将极大地增加外国投资者对我们市场的信心,促进中国市场经济健康有序的发展。

外商投资法的实施将吸引更多的外国投资者到中国,国内企业和外商投资企业将在公平竞争中相互促进、共同发展。