Foreign firms urged to set up R&D centres

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 April, 2007, 12:00am

Wu Bangguo wants overseas investors to carry out more research in mainland

China's No2 leader Wu Bangguo yesterday urged more foreign firms to establish research and development facilities in the country, and reassured investors their intellectual property rights would be protected.

The mainland 'encourages multinational corporations to set up research and development centres in China and conduct research and development with Chinese partners', Mr Wu, the National People's Congress Standing Committee chairman, told the opening of the Boao Forum for Asia, the annual conference held in Hainan .

'The government will protect the lawful rights and interests of all foreign investors and intellectual property rights holders in accordance with law,' Mr Wu told his audience, which included Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Microsoft chairman Bill Gates.

In a speech on a wide range of issues, including regional peace and stability, closer relations and co-operation to protect the environment, he said China's scientific development should be based on the 'people's first' principle that 'totally harmonises sustainable development'. His call comes two weeks after the US lodged a formal complaint against China at the World Trade Organisation.

Washington has charged the mainland with lax enforcement of intellectual property rights laws and creating barriers to market access for copyright-based industries such as music and film.

Mr Gates did not address piracy of software - including Microsoft's - but said that the growth of research and development in Asia depended on expansion of the regional market for hi-tech products.

'As the size of Asia's market comes to resemble its share of the world's population - about 60 per cent - I expect the research and development base will likewise follow,' he said.

He expressed confidence the region would evolve into a centre for hi-tech innovation. 'Not only is Asia benefiting from the use of technology, Asia will also be the source of new breakthroughs and advances in technology,' he said.

The annual Boao Forum for Asia in the seaside resort town is positioned as China's answer to the World Economic Forum.

Now in its sixth year, the forum is meant to address issues of innovation and sustainable development in the region.

Speaking at the forum's opening ceremony, Mrs Arroyo summarised the challenge facing the politicians and executives: 'How do we have rapid economic growth on one hand and maintain a stable social and environmental fabric on the other?'

Although the better-known gathering in Davos, Switzerland, earlier this year tackled issues like the role of competitive elections in developing democracy, the Boao forum steers clear of topics that might be deemed sensitive to its mainland hosts.

Sessions are grouped by industry, with names like 'Power of media and a harmonious Asia' and 'Green agenda for real estate industry'.

Mr Wu said delegates from across Asia should 'draw on each other's strength and promote democracy in international relations'.

'The right of a country to choose independently its path of development and follow its domestic and foreign policies, and to equal participation in international affairs, should be respected,' he said.