CHINA has told Japanese freight forwarders it is difficult to abolish foreign investment limits in the mainland's freight forwarding industry for the time being. The message was conveyed by the Chinese delegation to the fourth Japan-China government-level meeting on freight forwarding, held in Tokyo under the auspices of the Ministry of Transport (MOT). According to sources close to the meeting, the Japanese had strongly requested China to abolish the controls that limited the ratio of foreign forwarders' investments to 50 per cent or less of capitalisation of mainland joint ventures. Both sides agreed to discuss the matter further. Japanese forwarders are keen to set up wholly-owned subsidiaries or take majority stakes in joint ventures with Chinese partners. Japanese forwarders and trading houses set up freight forwarding joint ventures in China, but are restricted to minority shareholdings. The Japanese side also requested China to change the existing port-by-port permission system for an all-port-application system. The Chinese side replied that though it was difficult to set up a nation-wide permission system for geographical reasons, the procedures had been simplified in case forwarders wanted to add other ports to those they were permitted to serve. Forwarders doing business in China, including Japanese firms are now allowed to book cargo, issue bills of lading (B/Ls) and also sign the B/Ls. Both sides confirmed that because of recent Chinese moves, the regulations governing international cargo forwarders' agency activities, the scope of business of forwarders doing business had been defined. But the Japanese side requested China to clarify the country's permission standards and to reduce time required for obtaining such permission. The Chinese side agreed to render as much co-operation as possible in the matter. The Chinese side revealed that three China-Japan joint ventures had decided to set up forwarding operations in Japan and would be applying to MOT for permission soon.