China eyes easing rules on foreign investment to bring in more competition

A worker operates at a construction site on the 68th storey of a building in Shenyang, Liaoning province on October 16, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A worker operates at a construction site on the 68th storey of a building in Shenyang, Liaoning province on October 16, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - China aims to loosen restrictions on foreign investment in certain sectors to improve the efficiency of its domestic companies and bring in new technologies, the country's top regulator said late on Tuesday.

New draft rules, a revision of an existing list, cut the number of sectors where China limits foreign investment to 35 from the current 79, opening up areas such as steel, oil refining, paper making and premium spirits, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said.

Beijing is keen to improve the country's inefficient state-led firms by harnessing the power of the market to stave off slowing growth. However, despite the government's calls for greater reform of state-owned enterprises, it has been reluctant to cede too much control over the economy.

The NDRC said that the measures were aimed at adapting to a more globalised economy and would help China actively hasten its "opening up" process and improve transparency. "The focus will be on opening up manufacturing and services sectors to the outside," the NDRC said in a statement on its website, adding that the move would help boost China's international competitiveness.

Sectors such as steel have faced overcapacity, while others are keen to lure foreign investors to bring in technological know-how to help upgrade their operations.

Beijing will still ban foreign investment in 36 sectors, the draft rules said.

The NDRC is seeking feedback on the proposed revision until Dec. 3, it said. China has issued a similar list since 1995 and has been revising it every three years. The current version was issued in 2011, state news agency Xinhua said on Tuesday.

In total, the draft lists 349 sectors that welcome foreign investment, including vocational training, homes for seniors and services for children and the disabled.