The Ministry of Internal Trade is to tighten requirements for foreign investors seeking to set up retail joint ventures in China. Speaking in Hong Kong yesterday, Guo Guorong, head of the ministry's department of laws and regulations, said the government was considering only granting joint-venture licences to international retail groups. 'The foreign partners of the 16 joint ventures approved by the State Council are not all experienced in retailing,' Mr Guo said. 'We hope to have more professional foreign partners for the new ventures.' He said the ministry was considering regulations requiring Chinese partners to hold the majority stake in new joint ventures. The government was also looking into shorter terms for new licences. The timetable for the new regulations has not been decided. The State Council has so far approved 16 retail joint ventures in coastal cities. While the government hopes to have the ventures in inland cities, it has not chosen any city, Mr Guo said. He said the government would not consider more chain store joint ventures because it had just granted licences to the two pilot cases. The two ventures are expected to open next year or in 1998. The Beijing venture is under the supervision of the ministry while the Shanghai venture is under the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation. Mr Guo said a set of regulations governing the mushrooming chain stores in China was expected to be completed by the end of the year. 'We have no regulations for chain stores yet. The new regulations will be applicable for both domestic and foreign stores.' To hasten the development of chain stores, the state would grant loans to domestic groups. China has 650 chain store companies running more than 9,000 outlets. Mr Guo said the ministry was also looking into a separate set of regulations on retail joint ventures. He also said China had no plans to open the wholesale market to foreign investors. The ministry would be regulating the rising number of retail joint ventures set up by regional governments without the approval of the State Council. However, the ventures were unlikely to be shut down, Mr Guo said. A ministry official has said the government was conducting a study on such ventures.