Top legislator Qiao Shi told Italian industrialists in Milan that major moves in state enterprise reform would be introduced this year. 'State enterprise reform is a priority in China's reform programme this year,' Mr Qiao, Chairman of the National People's Congress, said during his official visit to Italy. Though the Government has introduced intensive economic reforms to various sectors, public ownership would still be the core means of production, Mr Qiao said. 'Different kinds of ownership will be allowed to have fair competition in economic activities,' he added. State enterprises have gradually become more competitive, he said. Under such circumstances, rule of law was playing an increasingly important role. 'A whole set of legislation has been passed to govern market behaviour, adjust the macro-economic environment, improve the social welfare system and rejuvenate pillar industries.' In order to guarantee and safeguard further progress in economic openness and modernisation, more effort would be put into accelerating the development of the rule of law in China, he said. 'Most of the legislation passed in the last four years is related to strengthening the market mechanism of the economy,' he added. Mr Qiao has pledged to promote further reform in foreign trade and foreign currency, as well as taxation. Mr Qiao also emphasised China's determination to protect foreign investment. 'China has been very practical in its economic legislation work and particular attention has been paid to ensure better legal protection for foreign investors,' he said. Mr Qiao also visited France and Norway.