Recently, the Ministry of Commerce revised and adopted the Rules on Handling Complaints of Foreign-Invested Enterprises (hereinafter referred to as the Rules), which shall come into force as of October 1, 2020.
The CPC Central Committee and the State Council attach great importance to the protection of the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors, and have called for the establishment and improvement of a complaint mechanism for foreign-invested enterprises many times. In his speech at the G20 Summit in 2019, General Secretary Xi Jinping stated that “we will provide equal treatment to all types of businesses registered in China. A complaint mechanism will be set up for foreign companies to air their grievances.” In his keynote speech at the opening plenary of the Boao Forum for Asia annual conference in 2019, Premier Li Keqiang stated that “we will also improve the working mechanisms for handling complaints filed by foreign-invested enterprises to smooth the channels of communication between the government and foreign investors and build them into an effective platform for the protection of the lawful rights and interests of foreign-invested enterprises.” The Foreign Investment Law and its implementing regulation coming into force this year have made specific provisions on handling complaints of foreign-invested enterprises.
There are 5 chapters and 33 articles in the Rules, which further refine the relevant requirements of the Foreign Investment Law and its implementing regulation, and improve the relevant systems for handling the complaints of foreign-invested enterprises.
First, broaden the scope of complaints. The Rules make it clear that foreign-invested enterprises or foreign investors can apply to the agencies handling complaints for coordination to resolve matters, when they allege that administrative actions have infringed their legitimate rights and interests or report issues concerning investment environment and suggesting improvements for relevant policies and measures. In addition, Chambers of commerce and associations can also report issues concerning investment environment to complaint agencies.
Second, the complaint handling mechanism would be improved. At the central level, we would establish the inter-ministry joint meeting mechanism for handling complaints filed by foreign-invested enterprises, and set up a national complaint center for foreign investment; At the local level, people’s governments above the county level should designate relevant departments or agencies to handle complaints of their own regions. To ensure all complaints are handled properly, the Rules sets out detailed provisions on archive management, case reporting, regular inspections, proposals for the protection of interests and rights, among other systems related to complaint handling.
Third, rules on handling complaints would be further clarified. To facilitate complainants to make complaints, the Rules formulates clear rules on making and accepting a complaint, how a complaint is handled, the time limits to handle a complaint and oppositions to the results. Coordination efforts would be intensified in order to properly handle all the complaints.
Fourth, more efforts would be made to protect the interests and rights. The Rules pays high attention to protecting the interests and rights of complainants in the handling process. It is provided in the Rules that a complaint shall not affect a complainant’s right to file administrative review and administrative litigation according to law; Agencies handling complaints are required to take effective measures to protect complainants’ trade secret, confidential business information and personal privacy; Any entity or individual shall not suppress or retaliate complainants.