China to roll out new market-opening measures this year

Mr Liu He, head of the General Office of the Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs, said China will ease restrictions for foreign firms in its financial, manufacturing and services sectors.
Mr Liu He, head of the General Office of the Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs, said China will ease restrictions for foreign firms in its financial, manufacturing and services sectors. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

DAVOS (Switzerland) • China will roll out fresh market-opening measures this year that could exceed international expectations, a top Communist Party official said yesterday.

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 was leading the Chinese delegation to the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Mr Liu's remarks came as German Chancellor Angela Merkel said isolationism and protectionism were not solutions to the economic challenges facing countries around the world. "We think that shutting ourselves off, isolating ourselves, will not lead us into a good future. Protectionism is not the answer," Dr Merkel said in a speech, a day before the arrival of US President Donald Trump, whose "America First" trade policies have raised concern among defenders of globalisation.

Her words were echoed by Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, who said leaders can defend their countries' interests but must respect existing international agreements, in an apparent reference to Mr Trump.

Mr Gentiloni said: "You can defend and protect your citizens, your workers, your companies, but we live in a framework given by trade agreements, free trade, trade rules, multilateral decisions, and we have to keep this system functioning."

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 heads the General Office of the Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs.

 

"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 said.

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

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 wars and protectionism.

"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."

Last November, Beijing 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 that China will focus on three battles in coming years: resolving risks, reducing poverty and controlling pollution.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2018, with the headline 'China to roll out new market-opening measures this year'. Print Edition | Subscribe