The government's widening market access for foreign investors in mining and the cancellation of restrictions on the exploration and development of petroleum and natural gas represent a precious opportunity for foreign oil, gas and mining companies, and have been well received by multinational corporations.
The National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Commerce released two updated negative lists for this year on Sunday, which are expected to take effect on July 30. According to the lists, restrictions on the exploration and development of petroleum and natural gas by Chinese-foreign equity joint ventures or non-equity joint ventures will be canceled.
This is part of the government's efforts to improve international cooperation as well as boost the country's development. China's policy will remain unchanged with respect to opening up and it will continue to ease market access, according to the nation's top economic regulator.
The move has been well received by multinational energy corporations.
"Shell finds progress in the opening-up in upstream sector very encouraging, as it means more choices and more options for us to invest in the sector and in the nation," said Zhang Xinsheng, executive chairman, Shell Companies in China.
British multinational oil and gas giant BP also applauded the move.
"After a year, the Chinese government once again revised the negative list of foreign investment, which demonstrates the nation's determination to unswervingly expand its opening up. We are greatly encouraged by this," said BP China Chairman and President Yang Xiaoping.
"Eliminating the restrictions on joint ventures and cooperation in oil and gas exploration and development, plus introducing multi-market entities (including foreign companies) in domestic oil and gas resource exploration and development, will enhance market activity, create a fair and open access environment, and help to further enhance the exploration and development efforts and technological advances of domestic oil and gas resources."
Meanwhile, the opening up of access to natural gas related fields will further promote the development of natural gas in China, to support the nation's low-carbon transformation, and bring more clean energy to the public, she added.
China's oil and gas exploration sector has been long dominated by State-owned enterprises, including China National Petroleum Corp, the country's biggest oil and gas company, and China Petroleum and Chemical Corp, the world's largest refiner by volume.
Exploration and development of petroleum and natural gas has long been limited to Chinese-foreign equity joint ventures or non-equity joint ventures of foreign companies. Foreign oil and gas companies' presence in the country so far include the tight gas development project between French oil giant Total and China National Petroleum Corp in the Erdos Basin and oil giant Royal Dutch Shell's tight gas project in Shaanxi province in cooperation with China National Petroleum Corp.
In addition to the lifting of restrictions in the fields of oil and gas exploration, the government has also lifted curbs on foreign investment in the exploration and exploitation of molybdenum, tin, antimony and fluorite.
Zhu Yi, a senior metals and mining analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, said this is a significant move which will allow more foreign investors to run majority shareholding or wholly owned businesses in the mining sector and help China foster high-quality growth and a better business climate for foreign investors.