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Germany, France urge China to level business playing field

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Germany, France urge China to level business playing field

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Germany and France urged Beijing on Thursday to do more to level the playing field for European businesses in China and address concerns about the business environment through "concrete and systematic measures".

In a rare joint op-ed in the business magazine Caixin, the German and French ambassadors to China said European businesses should have the same opportunities in China as Chinese industries in Europe.

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The op-ed comes on the eve of a major trade expo in Shanghai next week that Beijing hopes to use to signal its willingness to narrow trade deficits and assuage outside concern about its trade practices.

Critics see the China International Import Expo, or CIIE, as an ill-conceived event that is more about political posturing amid trade tensions between China and the United States than business.

French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert and German Ambassador Clemens von Goetze said the expo was timely.

"French and German companies are looking forward to China demonstrating that it will not waver and will deepen its opening-up and reform policy in order to create a level playing field for foreign businesses in China," their article said.

Western governments and businesses have long complained about discriminatory Chinese policies and market access restrictions.

"International businesses operating in China are awaiting a more holistic reform agenda to increase international investment and resolve the existing challenges," the op-ed said. "We encourage China to address these issues through concrete and systematic measures that go beyond tariff adjustments."

China should introduce quicker, scientifically-based procedures for agricultural products (SPS), abolish all joint venture requirements, ensure that implementation of cybersecurity legislation does not create barriers to business or discriminatory practices, and better protect intellectual property rights, it said.

But more also needs to be done, giving European companies the same opportunities in China that Chinese firms enjoy in Europe, they added.

"The Shanghai expo comes at just the right time. Forty years after their inception, China should give the reform and opening-up policies fresh impetus and create new political and economic momentum for foreign business," they wrote.

French Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume, and Christian Hirte, Parliamentary State Secretary at Germany's Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, are attending the import fair as their respective country's representatives.

(Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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