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Overseas Banks Can Issue Renminbi Cards
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China will allow foreign banks to issue their own renminbi-denominated credit and debit cards immediately, in accordance with a decision reached at the China-US Strategic Economic Dialogue.

"This will allow US banks to offer a full range of renminbi services and increase the amount of capital under their management for investment," a US official said.

Under the Administrative Rules on Foreign Banks, which took effect last December, overseas banks can issue their own brand of renminbi bank cards when they register as local entities.

However, regulations and technical problems, such as risk control and payment systems, need to be clarified in the new banking card regulation.

"An initial draft of the regulation has been completed," said Su Ning, deputy governor of the central bank, at a press conference last month.

According to Su, the regulation, drafted by the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council, the People's Bank of China and the China Banking Regulatory Commission, is under revision and will be issued as soon as possible.

The current bank card business in China is regulated under a rule issued in 1997 by the central bank, which has no terms regarding the foreign-invested bank card business.

Many overseas banks that had incorporated in China and have plans to do so are waiting for the new bank card regulation to move forward.

"We plan to issue a renminbi-denominated debit card first and then a credit card within the year," Raymond Yu, general manager of Bank of East Asia (China) Ltd, said in an interview with China Daily.

He said the bank has agreed with China UnionPay, the only Chinese bank card system, to cooperate on bank card transactions, and it was waiting for regulatory approval.

Officials from HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank also said that they are preparing for the business and will announce their plans when the new regulation is issued.

It is expected that locally-incorporated banks will enjoy the same regulatory treatment as Chinese banks.

Domestic banks are also expecting the issuance of the new bank card regulation. The old regulation is considered out of date because of the rapid development of the financial market.

As an important part of the banks' retail business, foreign-invested banks have started to prepare for it since last year.

(China Daily May 25, 2007)

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