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China says local, foreign firms treated the same in probes

China has said that its Anti-Monopoly Law does not discriminate between foreign and domestic companies, as big name overseas enterprises have come under a series of high-profile investigations.

BEIJING: China said on Saturday (Aug 9) that its Anti-Monopoly Law does not discriminate between foreign and domestic companies, as big name overseas enterprises have come under a series of high-profile investigations. The Ministry of Commerce issued a statement noting that foreign firms such as Microsoft and Mercedes-Benz have been probed as has the Chinese unit of a US food supplier.

Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang said that anti-monopoly probes were meant to promote fair competition and protect consumer rights. He said such investigations were also common practice internationally.

"Looking back at the past six years after the Anti-Monopoly Law took effect, both domestic and foreign firms have been probed according to the law," he said in a statement, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The statement appeared intended to reassure foreign businesses as Shen also made a point of stressing the positive and important role they have played in China's economic and social development for more than 30 years. "The Chinese government has always been dedicated to creating an equitable business environment for companies and safeguarding the order of market competition," he said, according to Xinhua.

Foreign pharmaceutical companies including Britain's GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) have also been the targets of wide-ranging investigations. Other businesses, such as Apple and Starbucks, meanwhile, have sometimes received unfavourable coverage in state media over issues regarding service and pricing.

On Wednesday, China vowed to punish German luxury brand Audi and Chrysler of the United States for "monopoly behaviour". Two days earlier, anti-monopoly investigators raided a Shanghai office of Mercedes-Benz. A total of 12 Japanese companies were under investigation for monopoly pricing of auto components and bearings, though their names have not yet been announced.

A Chinese government agency said earlier that it was investigating Microsoft for allegedly operating a monopoly after raiding four of its offices around the country. Chinese authorities investigated GSK following allegations it systematically offered bribes to doctors and hospitals and passed the cost on to consumers through high prices.

China, which is frequently hit by food safety scandals, is currently experiencing one over expired meat that has engulfed a local unit of US food supplier OSI Group. OSI subsidiary Shanghai Husi Food Co operated a factory shut down by authorities for mixing out-of-date meat with fresh product and selling it to fast food chains in China. Its clients included McDonald's and KFC.

Regarding the Shanghai Husi Food issue, Shen said the ministry had urged companies to stop selling the affected products and to cooperate with authorities in their probe.

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