China will continue opening up service sector

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Two top Chinese economic officials said on Friday that the nation is committed to further opening up the service sector, sending a strong signal that business opportunities will abound in the coming years.

Chen Deming is China's commerce minister.
Chen Deming is China's commerce minister.

China is determined to continue opening up because competition is the best force to push reform forward and improve people's livelihoods, Commerce Minister Chen Deming said at the Boao Forum for Asia.

"China plans to further loosen the restrictions on the service sector," Chen said, adding that developed countries also need to provide equal market access.

A host of Chinese companies have invested in foreign markets and are running into various barriers there.

In 2010, China's overseas direct investment was US$59 billion, equal to only 60 percent of the foreign direct investment in China, according to official statistics.

Also on Friday, Zhang Ping, head of the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planner, said that over the next five years the nation will guide foreign companies toward investing more in sectors including agriculture, high-end manufacturing and services.

In addition, it will create more innovative ways of using foreign investment and further improve the investment environment, Zhang said.

Analysts noted that the Chinese government is studying the feasibility of opening more areas in the service sector, but they warned that it will take time.

Lawrence Greenwood, vice-president of the Asian Development Bank, said the service sector will create potential for more jobs and provide great opportunity for foreign investment.

Huo Jianguo, director of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, a think tank affiliated with the Ministry of Commerce, said China has opened up more than it had committed to when it entered the World Trade Organization 10 years ago.

"Most areas of the service sector have already opened up, just in different degrees and layers," Huo said.

"But the pace could be a bit faster. That would be a double-edged sword, posing more challenges to domestic companies while letting them grow faster in a competitive environment," Huo said.

He said the government is studying the feasibility of opening further areas, such as transportation and some other public services.

Timothy Bond, chief economist for Asia Pacific at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said the Chinese economy has not yet balanced its development of manufacturing and services.

"Developing the service sector is important for the Chinese economy and important for keeping consumers spending, but at the same time, service sector reform will take time," Bond said.

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