China opens up finance sector to more foreign investment

China-etChina lifted some restrictions on foreign investment in the financial sector Saturday, as the world’s second largest economy fights slowing growth at home and a damaging trade war with the US.

China will remove shareholding limits on foreign ownership of securities, insurance and fund management firms in 2020, a year earlier than originally planned, the Financial Stability and Development Committee said in a statement posted by the central bank Saturday.

Foreign investors will also be encouraged to set up wealth management firms, currency brokerages and pension management companies, the statement said.

Beijing has long promised to further open up its economy to foreign business participation and investment but has generally dragged its feet in implementing the moves — a major point of contention with Washington and Brussels.

Saturday’s announcement followed a Friday meeting chaired by economic czar Liu He where policymakers focused on tackling financial risk and financial contagion and pledged new steps to support growth, according to a state council statement.

Additional measures include scrapping entry barriers for foreign insurance companies like a requirement of 30 years of business operations and cancelling a 25 percent equity cap on foreign ownership of insurance asset management firms.

Foreign owned credit rating agencies will also be allowed to evaluate a greater number of bond and debt types, the statement said.

US President Donald Trump has launched a damaging tariff war in an attempt to force Beijing to further open up its economy and limit what he calls its unfair trade practices.

The US and China have hit each other with punitive tariffs covering more than USD 360 billion in two-way trade.

Trump and Xi Jinping agreed to revive fractious trade negotiations when they met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan on June 29 and top US and Chinese negotiators have held phone talks this month.