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U.S. Companies Concerned About China Enforcement, Survey Says

Most U.S. companies surveyed by an industry group expressed concern over China’s increased antitrust scrutiny, adding to signs foreign business sentiment in the world’s second-largest economy is deteriorating.

Eighty-six percent of companies expressed concerns, with most citing enforcement as the main worry, according to the U.S.-China Business Council’s 2014 member survey. The Washington-based group represents about 220 American companies that do business in China, including Apple Inc., Ford Motor Co. and Walt-Mart Stores Inc. Bloomberg LP, parent of Bloomberg News, is also a member.

The report echoes concerns voiced by other groups representing U.S. and European companies after Chinese authorities stepped up antitrust scrutiny this year, including doling out record fines to auto-parts makers. Global car manufacturers, technology companies and food companies have faced antitrust probes in the country since last year.

Among those surveyed, 18 percent indicated they had been involved in investigations related to competition, including pricing, according to the council.

The American Chamber of Commerce in China said yesterday that 60 percent of respondents in its own survey in August said they felt foreign businesses were less welcome in the country than before, versus 41 percent in a late-2013 survey. The European Union Chamber of Commerce said last month that Chinese antitrust investigators were picking on foreign companies, pressuring them into accepting punishments and depriving them of full hearings.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said yesterday China’s anti-monopoly measures are transparent, fair and done in accordance with the law, reiterating past government denials that China targeting foreign businesses.

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