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China committed to expanding markets
Updated: 2005-10-18 20:21

China is committed to opening its financial markets to foreign competition, but will do so at its own pace, the country's top securities regulator said Tuesday.

"We will further open and expand our markets according to our own conditions," Shang Fulin, chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, told a conference organized by the U.S. Securities Industries Association. "We have to be cautious and keep stability."

The comments followed the conclusion Monday of China-U.S. talks on a wide range of economic issues between the two countries, including China's massive trade surplus and its tightly controlled currency, the yuan.

At those talks, the U.S. side offered sweeping suggestions for financial reforms aimed at improving investment opportunities and the use of scarce capital in China.
The idea, U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow said, is to make China more stable and encourage consumer spending that might help boost China's imports of American-made products and trim the trade imbalance, which hit a record $162 billion last year.

"We're trying to broaden the dialogue," said Snow. "Too much attention in the U.S.-China relationship has been on foreign exchange," he said, adding that Washington still wants Beijing to move faster in allowing the yuan's value to be set by the market.

In July, Beijing revalued its currency, cut its peg to the dollar and allowed it to trade in a very narrow range against a basket of other major currencies.

Snow noted that improvements in the financial markets and other sectors would help reduce poverty and boost economic growth.

He pointed to the hotel industry, one of the few service-oriented businesses in China -- at least at the highest levels -- that is nearly fully foreign managed, as an example of the benefits of open markets.

"The best way to jump start the level of financial performance is to take advantage of best practices all over the world," Snow said, speaking at the same conference as Shang.

Snow noted that while China's economy is among one of the world's largest, its securities markets are ranked "only 17th or 18th."

"One would expect to have a stronger equity market to match the size of the economy," he said.

Virtually all China's financial markets "are underdeveloped today relative to the potential they have," he said.

"Every really successful economy ... has highly developed vehicles for hedging risk, has highly developed vehicles for moving savings to investment," he said.

Shang pointed to progress in opening the market, noting moves to let a limited number of foreign financial institutions invest in yuan-denominated A shares and some yuan-denominated bonds through the qualified foreign institutional investor scheme introduced in late 2002.

"We have to learn from our friends, learn from best practices in international markets," he said.

At the same time, China will guard against unfettered foreign competition while seeking equal access to markets overseas.

"We should enjoy the protection deserved by developing countries and be cautious in opening up our financial markets," Shang said. "Developing countries face a lot of risks and unfair treatment."

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