BEIJING — China is taking measures to improve access for foreign companies, which experts believe will create an environment for fairer competition and bring more foreign investment.
Except for certain sensitive industries, foreign investment will now only require registration, rather than administrative approval, according to a statement released on Oct 8 following a State Council meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang.
Details of how the new system will work were released online by the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) later that day.
Foreign companies will submit applications online and receive a response within three days.
That is to say, as long as their business is not on a “negative list”, foreign investors will only need to deliver business plans to local regulators.
The central government estimates that this means more than 95 percent less procedures. The practice has been tested in various pilot free trade zones.
“A negative list for foreign investment, initiated by Shanghai pilot free trade zone in October 2013, will now be rolled out nationwide, which marks an end of an era dominated by administrative approvals.” Ye Lin, professor of Renmin University of China Law School was quoted as saying.
“The move goes in line with foreign investors’ anticipation of a wider opening Chinese market so as to further share the bonus of the country’s growth,” said Gmw.cn analyst Xie Weifeng.
A report by the US-China Business Council found 90 percent of US businesses operating in China were profitable in 2015, up from 85 percent in 2014.
Despite an economic slowdown, China remains an attractive destination for foreign companies with an improving business environment.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) in the mainland during the first eight months of 2016 increased 4.5 percent year on year to $85.9 billion, according to the MOC.
Altogether, 18,538 new foreign-funded businesses were established in the same period, up 10.2 percent from a year earlier.
China overtook the United States as the top FDI destination in 2014 when foreign firms invested $128 billion there and only $86 billion in the US, according to the United Nations Conference of Trade and Development.
FDI inflows have grown steadily since 1978 when China began reform and opening-up, but remained relatively low in the 1980s.
Former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s tour of the southern province of Guangdong in early 1992 brought a massive wave of FDI, lifting inflows to over $45 billion by 1997-1998.
In 2001, China joined the World Trade Organization and FDI inflows have more than doubled since.
China remains an ideal investment destination due to its plentiful human resources and solid infrastructure, Vice-Premier Wang Yang said at a meeting with representatives from foreign companies last month, while encouraging foreign investors to adapt to the current economic climate, known as the “new normal.”
Representatives from foreign companies, including Coca Cola, Toyota, Dell and IBM, said at the meeting that they remained upbeat about China’s economy and will increase investment in the country, and hope that China will further expand market access, improve the business environment and create more favorable conditions for them.
China has repeatedly promised to continue its efforts to create a fairer and more transparent investment environment.