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Chinese premier Li Keqiang delivers a speech at the China-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Expo in Nanning in southwest China's Guangxi province, on September 3, 2013/AFP

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Multinationals to get equal treatment in China: premier

Chinese premier Li Keqiang delivers a speech at the China-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Expo in Nanning in southwest China's Guangxi province, on September 3, 2013/AFP

Chinese premier Li Keqiang delivers a speech at the China-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Expo in Nanning in southwest China’s Guangxi province, on September 3, 2013/AFP

DALIAN, September 11 – China’s premier promised equal treatment for multinational companies operating in the country, as he opened a meeting of the World Economic Forum on Wednesday.

“China will continue to encourage foreign companies to invest and do business in China, and ensure that all companies have equal access and equal treatment,” Li Keqiang told business leaders and politicians in the northeastern Chinese city of Dalian.

His remarks came after Chinese authorities targeted foreign firms including pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline in a series of anti graft investigations, while other multinational and domestic companies were targeted in a price-monitoring probe.

China’s government said the investigations were aimed at rooting out corruption and lowering prices for consumers, but analysts said foreign companies were unfairly targeted as an example to local firms.

The European Chamber of Commerce in Beijing earlier this month said China was at risk of creating “unfair and inconsistent enforcement” of anti-corruption rules.

“We will improve the investment climate  and create an environment where all players have equal access to factory production, market competition and legal protection,” Li said.

Known as the “Summer Davos”, the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Dalian, on China’s northeast coast, brings together around 1,600 political and economic leaders, experts and NGO representatives.

The Chinese premier’s speech is the main set-piece of the event, and it was Li’s first time delivering it, following his rise to the head of government in a power handover to a new generation of Communist leaders completed earlier this year.

The participants this year include Wang Jianlin, newly listed as China’s richest person by both Forbes magazine and the Hurun Report, a luxury publisher in China.

Li repeated earlier pledges to push forward economic reforms to ensure continued growth, which has slowed in recent years.

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“Without enough structural reform… we won’t be able to achieve sustainable growth,” Li said.

“Priority will be given to easier investment access and greater opening up,” he added.

Li said he was confident that China would meet its stated goal of 7.5 percent economic growth in 2013.

China’s economy grew 7.8 percent last year, its lowest rate in over a decade, and analysts have said that it faces a struggle transforming its investment heavy growth model.

Li’s speech did not mention any details of new reforms, but analysts have speculated that a meeting of the ruling Communist party in November will see some policy changes.

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