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Chinese policies that promote domestic firms and create barriers against foreign ones could cause American companies to lose interest in China, U.S.Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said on Thursday.

Ted S. Warren / AP
US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke

Locke’s warning to Beijing against backsliding on economic openness and the rule of law came amid rising complaints about trade from both partners in a bilateral trading relationship worth more than $330 billion last year.

"Recent events, specifically the well-publicized Google incident, have reminded us of the continued challenges faced by foreign and U.S. companies operating in China," Locke said in a speech at the U.S.-China Business Council’s annual forecast conference.

Google, the world’s top search engine, said on Jan. 12 it would not abide by Beijing-mandated censorship of its Chinese-language search engine and might quit the Chinese market entirely because of cyber attacks from China.

"China needs to continue making strides to be more transparent, predictable and committed to the rule of law. If there is backsliding on these issues, it will affect the appetite of U.S. companies and other foreign companies to enter the Chinese market and ultimately that will be bad for both the people of China and the United States," Locke said.

He also criticized a Chinese government plan to promote "indigenous innovation" by giving Chinese companies that use Chinese intellectual property an advantage in bidding on government procurement projects.

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