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Nation to facilitate cross-border trade in services, officials say

China Daily| Updated: September 8, 2022

China will introduce nationwide negative list for cross-border trade in services to create more market access for global companies, officials said on Thursday.

The nation has reduced the industries covered by a negative list for foreign investment for five consecutive years. The off-limit items for foreign investors were cut to 31 in the 2021 version of the negative list from 33 in the 2020 version, while the 2021 negative list for foreign investment in industries under pilot free-trade zones was reduced to 27 from 30.

A negative list refers to specific areas of industry where foreign investors are not allowed to operate. China introduced a negative list for cross-border trade in services at the Hainan Free Trade Port last year. Foreign investors can operate in industries not included in the list.

The move by China will relax market access for cross-border trade in services, and expand the scope of foreign investment in advanced manufacturing, scientific and technological innovation and modern services in the coming years, said Wang Shouwen, vice-minister of commerce.

Addressing a subforum during the ongoing 2022 China International Fair for Trade in Beijing, Wang said China plans to conclude the text negotiations on the World Trade Organization's multilateral agreement on investment facilitation for development by the end of this year.

Launched by a group of developing and least-developed WTO members in 2017, the joint initiative aims to improve the investment and business climate, and make it easier for investors in all sectors of the economy to invest.

In addition to seeking to join the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, the government will push the implementation of upgrading strategies in the pilot free trade zones, support the growth of trade in services and provide foreign companies with greater transparency and certainty in the services field, Wang added.

These programs will explore ways to improve administrative systems and policies, and advance trade facilitation and the integration of traditional manufacturing and service industries, said Wang Anshun, the deputy head of the Development Research Center of the State Council.

In contrast to goods trade, trade in services refers to the sale and delivery of intangible services such as transportation, finance, tourism, telecommunications, construction, advertising, computing and accounting.

The value of China's trade in services jumped 20.7 percent on a yearly basis to 3.39 trillion yuan ($491.23 billion) in the first seven months of the year, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

Mara Warwick, World Bank Country Director for China, said the development of China's trade in services reflects the country's status as the world's leading manufacturer and the goods-services linkages that stem from China's manufacturing prowess.

"Services liberalization could enlarge the basket of competitive exports and imports, which will underpin China's quest for industrial upgrading, decarbonization and quality of life improvements," she said.

Wang Yunfeng, vice-chairman, president and CEO of HSBC Bank (China) Ltd, said that many policy measures in China have demonstrated the government's resolve to expand opening-up in the financial sector and improve connectivity in capital markets, such as in free capital inflows, outflows and free currency exchange policies in Shanghai's Lin-gang Special Area.

"China is furthering efforts to expand opening-up in the finance sector," he said, noting that regulators are strengthening policy coordination to build a better business environment and encourage participation of foreign investors in the financial market, which will lift the overall financial services level and facilitate high-quality growth in the country.