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Foreign Firms Rush to China
At least four foreign insurers received the green light to set up life insurance businesses in China on Tuesday, the same day the country formally became a member of the World Trade Organization.

Manulife-Sinochem Life Insurance, New York Life Insurance, Japan's Nippon Life Insurance and New York-based Metropolitan Life Insurance confirmed that the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) has informed them that they can establish life insurance operations in China.

But CIRC refused to make any comment. Manulife-Sinochem was granted approval to proceed with the preparation of a branch in Guangzhou.

General Manager Raymond Chan said Manulife-Sinochem is ready to launch its operations in Guangzhou. The Sino-Canadian insurer has already been operating in Shanghai for five years, with more than 3,200 agents serving over 100,000 customers.

Manulife-Sinochem's Deputy General Manager Wang Yuzhong said: "The approval to open a branch in Guangzhou is the first step in implementing our strategy of becoming a national insurer in China."

The other three insurers will be allowed to set up joint-venture life insurance companies in China.

"This is further evidence of China's commitment to opening its financial services industry," New York Life Chairman Sy Sternberg said in a statement.

New York Life International's CEO Gary Benanav added that they look forward to their return to the insurance market in the Chinese mainland and to being a long-term partner in the development of the Chinese economy.

Both New York Life and Metropolitan Life said they have been in talks with local partners for some time. It is also reported that China has given American International Group (AIG) four new licences to set up and operate insurance operations in Beijing, Suzhou, Dongguan and Jiangmen.

A senior manager with American International Assurance Shanghai Branch, an AIG wholly owned company, said they have not received any detailed information about the approval.

(China Daily December 13, 2001)

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