China’s newly appointed minister of commerce vowed on Feb 27 to further boost foreign direct investment and let foreign companies play a bigger role driving local manufacturing and service industries.
Zhong Shan, who replaces Gao Hucheng, spoke of the importance of pilot free trade zones and supply-side reform at a national conference to attract FDI. “A total of 114 innovative ways to get things done have been duplicated as a result of experiments that have taken place in the country’s four FTZs, including Shanghai and Guangdong,” he said.
The experiments have included allowing foreign firms to run healthcare and education businesses, and removing restrictions on foreign financial institutions like securities and fund management companies.
Products such companies manufacture in China also will be treated fairly in government procurement, he said.
Such measures will be promoted nationwide and are expected to further drive FDI, said Li Gang, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation in Beijing.
“FDI management has taken a major leap from case-by-case approval to negative-list management,” said Zhong. “International business interactions also have been accelerated by national economic and technology development zones and economic cooperation areas along the borders in Jilin and Yunnan provinces.”
The negative list specifies sectors off-limits to foreign investors, meaning overseas and Chinese companies in sectors not on the list should be treated equally.
China attracted $489.42 billion in foreign capital in the past four years, and annual FDI from high-tech enterprises rose by 11.7 percent year-on-year on average from 2013 to 2016, according to the ministry.
Foreign-invested businesses contributed almost half of China’s foreign trade volume, even though they accounted for less than 3 percent of the total number of enterprises.
“But now China is facing heavy pressures from other countries in attracting FDI,” Li said.
Li said China must become an innovative economy and create new growth points to encourage foreign companies to invest in its high-end and service industries.