Services key for overseas investors: experts
2018 marks the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening-up policy, and the year will see more specific measures to promote the new pattern of all-round opening-up, experts said.
"It is clear that industries such as high-end manufacturing and modern services are the sectors where the opening-up is directed, and the services industry will be a key area," Huo Jianguo, senior CCG research fellow and former director of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), told the Global Times on Tuesday.
According to the Central Economic Work Conference held in December 2017, the services trade is set to be greatly promoted in the future.
Data from MOFCOM showed that in the first 11 months of 2017, foreign direct investment (FDI) in the services sector climbed to 582.75 billion yuan ($88.08 billion), up 13.5 percent year-on-year and accounting for 72.5 percent of the total FDI. And the high-tech services industry attracted 177.1 billion yuan in FDI, more than double the amount in the same period of 2016.
China will increase the opening-up in services industries including education, culture, healthcare and finance in 2018, Tang Wenhong, head of MOFCOM's Department of Foreign Investment Administration, told a meeting on December 25 in Beijing.
"Against the backdrop of China's supply-side reform and the aim of fostering high-quality development, more high-end services need to be introduced in the future," Chen
Fengying, an expert at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times.
Huo noted that developing the services sector will be significant for sustaining economic growth and encouraging foreign capital flows into China, while also increasing competition and thereby encouraging domestic firms to become stronger.
In the financial services sector, the process of opening-up is progressing gradually. On December 13, 2017, the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) said it would relax restrictions on foreign shareholding ratios in Chinese banks (apart from private banks), which limited a single overseas investor's stake to no more than 20 percent.
The CBRC also said it would continue to open up the banking sector by such means as expanding the scale of overseas banks.
This has offered encouragement for foreign-funded banks in China, including Standard Chartered Bank. In an email sent to the Global Times on Tuesday, the UK-based bank said the policy would enable it to "capture opportunities brought by the reform and opening-up."
According to the Central Economic Work Conference, China will push for nationwide implementation of a pre-establishment national treatment system as well as a negative list that determines where foreign participation is prohibited or limited.
The central government strengthened efforts to expand the investment scope for foreign capital in 2017, said Tang of MOFCOM.
For example, in a revised industrial guidance catalogue for foreign investment released in June, China cut 30 restrictions, he noted.
Chen said that the negative list is certain to become shorter as the country opens wider to investment from abroad.
Addressing the Fortune Global Forum held in Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong Province in December 2017, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang said China was working on a timetable to further open up key industries, including financial services and electric cars.
He also noted that qualified foreign companies registered in China will receive equal treatment in government procurement, setting of standards and projects related to "Made in China 2025," the government's blueprint to upgrade the manufacturing sector.
"The timetable is vital for maintaining a good business environment. Besides, with the tone set clearly, workable specifics now need to be rolled out," Huo said, noting the plans for the high-end manufacturing sector should be further clarified.
Also, opening-up in such services segments as e-commerce, construction design, education and accounting should to be accelerated, as this has already been promised, Huo said.
Related departments are currently working hard on the specifics while implementation is expected to come in the first half of 2018, Huo forecast.