China to open more to investors, wants fair deals

BOAO (Hainan) • China will substantially cut the number of sectors closed to foreign investment, its central bank governor told the Boao Forum for Asia yesterday.

But Mr Zhou Xiaochuan of the People's Bank of China (PBOC) also said that, as his country opens wider, "we want China to get fair treatment overseas".

Among financial sectors targeted for further opening in China are banking, insurance, investment banking, securities firms and payments, Mr Zhou added.

Beijing is in talks with Japan as well as European and Asean countries about bilateral trade and investment agreements, he said, but is "waiting for the new United States administration to decide" how to move forward on agreements.

The central bank governor expects to see more countries start to emphasise fiscal policy and structural reform as the period of loose monetary policy ends.

Chinese policymakers have emphasised the need to focus on structural reform over purely high- speed growth.

The Chinese central bank has moved to a tightening bias in an effort to squeeze speculators and control asset bubbles, raising primary money market rates several times since late January.

Mr Zhou said China's reforms need to include streamlining the fiscal relationship between central and local governments.

"Different provinces have different fiscal indicators. Some provinces are already over-indebted but some still have room.

"(So) we need to figure out the central and local government relationship," he added.

Mr Zhou said China's central government debt-to-GDP ratio is not very high. Beijing tightened controls in recent years on local government debt to contain risks from an earlier borrowing binge aimed at softening the impact of the global financial crisis.

This year, Beijing has capped the size of outstanding local government debt at 18.8 trillion yuan (S$3.82 trillion), up from 17.2 trillion in 2016, excluding bonds issued under a debt swap scheme.

Mr Zhou said on Saturday there would be no going back on world trade, which has been the dominant theme of officials and executives at the annual Boao gathering.

"Globalisation is something that has already happened," added Mr Zhou, the longest-serving central bank chief in the G-20.

"You must directly face the new reality. It's not whether you could choose to welcome globalisation or not."

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 27, 2017, with the headline 'China to open more to investors, wants fair deals'. Print Edition | Subscribe