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April 28, 2017

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City opening up to foreign investment

SHANGHAI aims to attract more foreign investment by expanding its opening-up and building a more competitive market, officials said yesterday.

A guideline highlighting 33 measures includes widening market entry, expanding support policies, creating an equal business environment, and lifting standards of government services for foreign investment companies.

“Openness is the greatest advantage of Shanghai,” said Shang Yuying, head of the city’s commerce commission. “The new guideline places greater importance to the extent of openness and aims to expand openness at a greater scale and a higher level.”

Restrictions will be lifted in accounting and assurance, architectural design and rating services.

Greater foreign participation will be allowed in banking, securities, fund management, futures and insurance, and gradual opening-up will be promoted in telecommunications, the Internet, culture, education, and transport industries, according to the guideline.

Foreign investment will be encouraged in advanced manufacturing industries, infrastructure, and research and development services.

Investors in these sectors will be able to enjoy the same level of financial incentives and easier administrative procedures in operation and introducing talent as domestic companies.

Incentives will also be offered for foreign companies to set up regional and operational headquarters in Shanghai.

For certified high-level foreign talent and senior professionals employed by qualified high technology companies, an age restriction of 60 will be lifted when applying for five-year work visas.

Foreigners can apply for permanent residence in China if they invest a minimum of US$1 million in Shanghai within three consecutive years or US$500,000 in government-encouraged industries.

To support Shanghai’s mission to improve its economic structure, foreign investment is also encouraged in modern agriculture, high technology, advanced manufacturing, energy saving, new energy and modern services sectors.

In creating a more competitive market for foreign-invested companies, authorities will cancel the different treatment of domestic and foreign companies in acquiring administrative approval, project bidding, and solving disputes.

Foreign investment companies will also be treated equally in market entry, government procurement, intellectual rights protection and trading procedures.

Financing channels will be opened up to allow foreign companies to restructure and get listed, issue bonds, and access funding through over-the-counter stock exchanges. Policies implemented in the free trade zone, such as the negative list and easier customs clearance, will be expanded to more industrial parks.

The guideline comes as Shanghai faces challenges in attracting foreign investment amid a weak global economy, increased protectionism and rising costs, Shang said.

Foreign direct investment into Shanghai accounts for 15 percent of the national level, but it has declined year on year for three consecutive months this year, the first time in 17 years.

Shang attributed that to changes in global economic structure, and a domestic industrial structure shift away from resource and labor intensive industries.

She said it was critical Shanghai step up its opening-up and improve the business environment for foreign-invested companies.

The guideline will also deepen positive changes that have already taken place, including greater investment in service industries and headquarters. The shift will help lift the scale and accumulation of foreign investment in Shanghai, Shang said.

Foreign-invested companies are already an essential part of Shanghai’s economy as they contributed a third of the city’s GDP as well as two-thirds of foreign trade and a third of tax revenue last year.

A survey of 15,200 foreign-invested companies in the city showed that their profits jumped 12.3 percent year on year in 2016 while revenue rose 5.5 percent, according to the commission.


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