China opening up to foreign investor pressures Hong Kong, says lawmaker

Opening of mainland to foreigners will put pressure on city, says minister

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 November, 2013, 11:33pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 November, 2013, 10:32am

Beijing will make it easier for foreign investors to enter China's finance, education, accounting, medical care and e-commerce markets, Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said yesterday.

Analysts said the reforms, stemming from decisions made at a key Communist Party meeting this month, would be welcomed by foreign investors but were likely to add to the competitive pressure faced by Hong Kong, which until now has enjoyed privileged access to some mainland industries under the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement.

Under Cepa, which has been in place since 2003, Hong Kong companies enjoy better access to accounting, education and commercial areas than other foreign firms.

"China's wider opening up to all foreign investors is alarming news for Hong Kong companies," Christopher Cheung Wah-fung, the legislator representing the financial services sector, said last night.

He added: "The reform means Hong Kong has lost the privilege and will need to face more competitive pressure from overseas rivals."

"The Hong Kong government will need to do more to reposition Hong Kong to compete under China's new economic reform. We can no longer stick to the past era."

Gao told Xinhua that China needed to "promote reforms at home and open up wider to the outside world".

The ministry would widen market access for foreign investors by "speeding up unifying laws and regulations for both domestic and overseas investors, and endeavouring to keep investment policy stable, transparent and predictable", Gao said. "[The Ministry of Commerce] will open finance, education, culture and medical care to foreign investors in an orderly manner.

"It will lift access restrictions for foreign investors in child-care and old-age care, architectural design, accounting and auditing, commercial logistics and e-commerce. The manufacturing sector will also become more open."

Gao told Xinhua his ministry would also work to develop free-trade zones following the establishment of a pilot zone in Shanghai this year.