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US discriminating against Chinese firms, says TCL boss

TCL Corporation Chairman Li Dongsheng attends a forum in Hong Kong, China April 21, 2017. Photo: Reuters

The chief executive of one of China's biggest companies has accused the US of discrimination and protectionism since the election of President Donald Trump.

Li Dongsheng of consumer electronics firm TCL told the BBC that regulators had blocked the agreed purchase of an American technology firm.

Mr Li declined to name the company, but stressed that it was involved in civilian, not military, technology.

He said that the deal was stopped because his firm was Chinese.

The US relationship with China under the new President has so far been less fractious than many had feared.

President Trump last week said his administration would not label China a currency manipulator, rowing back on a campaign promise.

And while he has launched an investigation into countries that export artificially cheap steel - a practice usually associated with China - the White House said the move had "nothing to do" with Beijing and was about protecting US security.

'Competitiveness risk'

TCL's Mr Li said he was frustrated at the lack of progress in the deal, which he had hoped to get finalised under the Obama administration.

"We want to acquire a company there. But the government hasn't approved it. It's been six months," he said.

"If we were not a Chinese company, if we were European, the deal would have been approved already, or it may not have even needed any approval."

When asked if this amounted to discrimination, Mr Li said: "Of course. These measure target only Chinese companies."

Mr Li is an engineer who founded the TCL Corporation, which sells mobile phones, air conditioners and television sets all over the world.

The company is a household name in China and for the past decade it has been striving to become a truly global company.

But Mr Li believes the biggest obstacle in overseas expansion is protectionism.

"If America returns a protectionist road, I believe it will harm the competitiveness of the US economy," he said.

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