China to ease foreign investor limits in 2020
China will end ownership limits for foreign investors in its financial sector in 2020, a year earlier than scheduled, to show the world it will keep opening up its markets, Premier Li Keqiang said yesterday.
It will also further open up its manufacturing sector, including the auto industry, while reducing its negative investment list that restricts foreign investment in some areas, Li told the World Economic Forum in the north-eastern Chinese port city of Dalian.
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Beijing's signal that it is quickening the pace of opening up came after the presidents of China and the United States agreed over the weekend to restart trade talks, in another attempt to strike a deal and end a bruising tariff war.
But analysts doubt the ceasefire will lead to a sustained easing of tensions, and warn lingering uncertainty could dampen corporate spending and global growth. "We will achieve the goal of abolishing ownership limits in securities, futures [and] life insurance for foreign investors by 2020, a year earlier than the original schedule of 2021," Li said.
Foreign investment banks such as Morgan Stanley are looking to join HSBC Holdings, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Nomura Holdings and UBS Group in owning controlling stakes in onshore securities joint ventures in China, under liberalised rules announced in 2017.
"JP Morgan welcomes any decision made by the Chinese government that looks to liberalise its financial sector further," said the bank's China CEO Mark Leung.
Citigroup, which is in the process of setting up a majority-owned securities joint venture in China, also applauded the news. "Citi welcomes any move that leads to the further opening up of the Chinese financial system," said a Hong Kong-based spokesman.
The US and other countries in the West have long complained that Beijing is blocking foreign access to its fast-growing financial markets and not allowing a level playing field when multinational companies are allowed in. But in recent months, China has allowed many foreign financial firms to either set up new businesses onshore or expand their presence through majority ownership in domestic joint ventures, across mutual funds, insurance and brokerage businesses.
Li also said the government will reduce restrictions next year on market access for foreign investors in the value-added telecoms services and transport sectors.