China will allow foreign financial firms to compete on an equal footing and "sharply" expand their business scope. Beijing also promised to refrain from currency devaluation in its trade spat with the US.
China said on Wednesday it would allow foreign investors greater access to its stock markets and promised that other previously announced financial reforms would come into effect within months.
The pledge, made by Central Bank Governor Yi Gang at the annual Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan province, comes at a time of heightened pressure from the United States over trade and access to China's markets.
Yi said China would allow foreign investors access to trust, financial leasing, auto finance and consumer finance by the end
of the year. Moreover, they would be able to trade a greater volume of shares on Chinese stock markets through existing programs linking Hong Kong's bourse with mainland exchanges.
In addition, the country's financial regulators plan to remove limits on foreign shareholdings in Chinese financial institutions. Yi announced that foreign firms would be allowed to own as much as 51 percent of joint ventures in the securities, funds and futures industries, up from the current 49 percent.
The latest promises came a day after President Xi Jinping pledged at the same forum that China would lower car tariffs this year and take other steps to open the world's number two economy "wider and wider."
Trade tensions ease
The reforms are part of an effort by the government to ease tensions in a simmering trade row with the United States that has seen both sides threaten retaliatory measures. The announcements appeared to set a firmer timetable for implementation as Yi said the measures would be taken "in the coming months."
The US and European Union have long complained about market access in a host of industries, with foreign firms unable to take controlling stakes in Chinese firms.
In China's tightly-controlled banking sector, for example, overseas companies currently cannot hold more than 25 percent of a lender's capital, making it difficult for them to play a major role in the domestic market.
Analysts have previously downplayed such reform promises, saying they are being made now that Chinese enterprises have a firm hold on domestic markets. US President Donald Trump, however, praised Xi's "kind words" on reform on Tuesday and pledged to cooperate with China toward "great progress" in resolving trade differences.
The Chinese central bank governor also dispelled fears China might use its currency as a weapon in the trade dispute with the US.
Yi pledged China would not devalue the yuan, saying the country's exchange rate system was "working smoothly." The assurance came two days after media reports that China is considering gradually devaluing the yuan to offset the impact of potential curbs on Chinese exports by the Trump administration.
uhe/aos (Reuters, AFP)