China poised to open markets ‘beyond expectations’ as US tariffs loom

Zhang’s comments echo those made by China’s Premier Li Keqiang at the end of the country’s National People’s Congress, an annual parliamentary convocation, earlier this week.

“We will fully open up the manufacturing sector, with no mandatory technology transfers allowed, and we will protect intellectual property,” Li told a press conference wrapping up the NPC in Beijing.

Zhang provided more detail on the scope of market openings China’s government is planning for foreign investors.

“The general manufacturing sector will be completely opened up and access to sectors like telecommunications, medical services, education, elderly care and new energy vehicles will be expanded,” Zhang said in New York.

“China will phase in the opening up of bank card clearing and other markets, lift restrictions on the scope of operations of foreign-invested insurance companies and ease or lift restrictions on the share of foreign-owned equity in companies in sectors including banking, securities, fund management, futures and financial asset management.”

The Trump administration may need more than pledges to liberalise particular sectors of China’s economy to stand down from sanctions it is expected to announce soon.

After the US leader finished his state visit to Beijing in November, Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao announced changes that included raising the limit on foreign ownership in joint-venture firms involved in futures and asset management to 51 per cent from the current 49 per cent.

That was not enough to divert Trump from his plan to sanction China.

Since his visit to Beijing, Trump has only drawn closer to White House adviser Peter Navarro, who last week said the president is “courageously” taking steps to counter “China’s theft and forced transfer of intellectual property”.

“They’ve announced the intention to raise these caps, but I don’t think they’ve put out the implementing regulations that will allow it, and they haven’t been fully clear about in which of these financial subsectors the caps are going to be eliminated completely,” Lardy said.

“This makes it difficult for financial institutions to plan.”

These moves might be too little and too late, according to US politicians and advisers.

Addressing the US’s record US$276 billion (HK$2.16 trillion) trade deficit with China last year, Edward Cox, chairman of the New York Republican State Committee, said Beijing’s status as a geopolitical competitor makes such an imbalance politically unsustainable.