China to roll out fresh market-opening measures this year, says Liu He at Davos

Chinese Communist Party Central Committee member Liu He addressing participants at the 48th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan 24, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

DAVOS, Switzerland (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, AFP) - China will roll out fresh market-opening measures this year that could exceed "international expectations", a top Communist Party official said in Davos on Wednesday (Jan 24).

China will ease restrictions for foreign companies in its financial, manufacturing and services sectors, while stepping up efforts in protecting intellectual property and expanding imports, said Mr Liu He, who heads the General Office of the Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs.

China has frustrated foreign financial firms eager to expand in its multi-trillion-dollar financial sector, but announced measures late last year to ease market access.

"I can responsibly say we will realise our promises one by one this year," said Mr Liu, who was leading the Chinese delegation to the annual World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort.

He added: "Some measures will exceed the expectations of the international community."

"Opening up is not only important for China, but also for the whole world."

He added that a fresh reform push was also a celebration of the 40th anniversary of China's shift away from a closed Communist system.

China will also lower import tariffs for cars "in an orderly way", Mr Liu said, without giving any details.

China, which is under increasing pressure from the administration of US President Donald Trump over its trade practices, imposes a 25 per cent tax on imported cars.

After Mr Trump's visit to China in November, Beijing said it would gradually cut tariffs on vehicles.

Last week, US Senator Chuck Schumer called Chinese automotive trade rules "manifestly unfair, and a typically unfortunate example of China's rapacious trading policies".

Chinese-built cars shipped to the United States face a 2.5 per cent tariff.

Mr Liu said economic globalisation should be more "open, inclusive and balanced," echoing President Xi Jinping's remarks last year, when he urged business and political elites to reject trade war and protectionism.

Mr Xi's appearance at Davos, which has more usually been attended by China's premiers, showed the country has become more active in leading globalization.

"China has stood firm against all forms of protectionism," Mr Liu said. "We have broadened access to our financial markets and taken the initiative to increase imports."

Beijing in November took a major step towards the long-awaited opening of its financial system, saying it will remove foreign ownership limits on banks while allowing overseas firms to take majority stakes in local securities ventures, fund managers and insurers.

Mr Liu reiterated China will focus on three battles in coming years: resolving risks, reducing poverty and controlling pollution. China will make our "skies blue again", he vowed.

Mr Liu, who was elevated to the Communist Party's 25-member Politburo in October after many years of guiding economic policy behind the scenes, is taking on more public roles and seen as in line to become vice premier this year. The potential promotion may mean he'll lead the State Council's Financial Stability and Development Committee, a new organisation charged with corralling China's disparate financial regulators and defusing risks.

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