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January 18, 2017

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China unveils measures to further open economy to foreign capital

CHINA’S Cabinet issued measures yesterday to further open the world’s second-largest economy to foreign investment, including easing limits on investment in banks and other financial institutions.

China will lower restrictions on foreign investment in banking, securities, investment management, futures, insurance, credit ratings and accounting sectors, the State Council said in a statement posted on its website.

No further details were provided, nor a timetable for their implementation.

The Cabinet had indicated at the end of last year that the government would take measures to relax foreign investment in certain sectors.

The measures come as President Xi Jinping seeks to project China as a world leader in fighting protectionism and defending globalization. China will keep its door wide open and not close it, Xi told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The State Council also said foreign-invested companies would be allowed to list on the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges as well as the country’s biggest over-the-counter equity exchange.

It was the first time the government has made clear that foreign firms will be allowed to sell shares publicly on the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges, apparently overturning a previous plan for an international board in Shanghai.

Shanghai in 2010 started lobbying the central government to establish an international board in the city, allowing listings by multinationals such as HSBC Holdings Plc and Siemens AG. But the plan has never materialized.

Foreign-invested firms will also be allowed to issue various debt instruments in China including corporate bonds, enterprise bonds and convertible bonds, the Cabinet said.

The State Council said the measures were intended to create a “fair and competitive” environment that puts “domestic and foreign companies on an equal footing.”

“How the rules get implemented will be very important,” said Arthur Kroeber, partner of Gavekal Dragonomics.

Restrictions on foreign investment in telecommunications, the Internet, culture, education and transport sectors would be relaxed “in an orderly way,” the State Council said.

The measures will also cancel restrictions on foreign investment in the manufacture of rail equipment, motorbikes, fuel ethanol, and oils and fats processing, while easing restrictions on unconventional gas, including oil shale, oil sands, shale gas and mineral resources.

Foreign investment in oil and natural gas projects would shift from an approval-based system to a registration system, the statement said.

Foreign direct investment in the Chinese mainland kept growing steadily last year on the back of strong investment in the service industry.

FDI rose 4.1 percent year on year to 813 billion yuan (US$119 billion) in 2016.


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