Beijing (AFP) – China Tuesday announced a timeline to open up its manufacturing sector including scrapping ownership limits for foreign automakers, shipbuilders and aircraft firms — addressing a key issue in its trade dispute with the United States.
The liberalisation meets a longtime demand of the United States and other countries seeking better access for their companies in the world’s biggest car market and one of the largest markets for air travel.
China currently restricts foreign auto firms to a maximum 50 percent ownership of joint ventures with local companies.
The country will this year end shareholding limits for new energy vehicle firms such as those that produce electric cars, according to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).
The move will be followed by commercial vehicles in 2020 and passenger cars in 2022, when it will also abolish restrictions limiting foreign automakers to two joint-venture partners, the NDRC said in a statement.
“After a five-year transition period, the auto sector will lift all restrictions,” it said.
“China’s full opening of the manufacturing industry is a clear indication of our opposition to trade and investment protectionism, and shows our clear support to widening and deepening the development of economic globalisation,” the NDRC said in the announcement.
“Through the full liberalisation of the manufacturing industry, we will support Chinese and foreign companies in achieving common development on a level playing field,” the NDRC said.
It said it hoped the liberalisations would encourage greater exchanges of capital, technology, management and personnel of Chinese and foreign firms.
President Xi Jinping announced the plans for the auto industry last week without giving any timeline.
Xi’s announcement was among a series of measures seen as potential concessions to Trump in the face of a potential trade war.
– Washington wary –
Still, after Xi struck the conciliatory note in his speech, Trump showed no indication he would back down from imposing the threatened tariffs on $150 billion worth of Chinese goods, and Beijing said it was ready to hit back.
Officials in Washington say they have grown wary of China’s endless promises that often result in little action. The NDRC announcement could allay those complaints by giving specific dates for completion of the reforms.
The NDRC said the shipbuilding industry would this year scrap foreign ownership restrictions on firms designing, making and repairing vessels.
The NDRC will also lift restrictions on foreign ownership of aircraft manufacturing firms this year, including those that make large-body commercial airliners, regional jets, helicopters, drones and blimps.
The commission said it would also release a new negative list for foreign investment in the first six months of the year, to “substantially relax foreign investment access”.
The new list will include the already announced opening of the financial services and auto sectors, and expand to include further opening for the energy, resources, infrastructure, transportation, and other sectors, the NDRC announcement said.
But in another move that could exacerbate tensions, China decided Tuesday to slap provisional anti-dumping duties on imports of US sorghum, saying its domestic industry has suffered from “substantial damage”.