China economy

Foreign investment in China stable in October, but US investment weak due to trade war

  • Investment from US up 4.1 per cent in the first 10 months, well below investment increases of 36 per cent for South Korea, 24 per cent for Japan and 176 per cent for Britain
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 November, 2018, 7:31pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 November, 2018, 8:23pm

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in China remained stable overall in October, despite slowing economic growth and weak inflows from the United States amid the trade war.

FDI, a sign of international confidence in the world’s second-biggest economy, rose to US$9.7 billion in October, up 7.3 per cent from a year earlier, the Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday.

In the first 10 months of the year, total FDI rose to US$107.6 billion, with the growth rate accelerating slightly to 6.5 per cent from the same period last year and from 6.4 per cent in the January-September period.

Investment from the US increased 4.1 per cent in the first 10 months, well below investment increases of 36 per cent for South Korea, 24 per cent for Japan and 176 per cent for Britain, the ministry said.

Outbound investment from China to the rest of the world grew 3.8 per cent year on year to US$89.6 billion in the first 10 months. About 36 per cent of Chinese overseas investment was in leasing and commercial services, 17 per cent in manufacturing and 9.4 per cent in the mining sector. There was no new investment in foreign property, sport and entertainment, the ministry said, given the government crackdown on investment in those sectors.

China’s September FDI figure rises as foreign investor shrug aside concerns of trade war

In yuan terms, FDI rose 7.2 per cent year on year to 64.5 billion yuan (US$9.27 billion) in October, slower than the 8 per cent rise the previous month. It was also up 3.3 per cent year on year to 701.2 billion yuan in the first 10 months of the year.

Beijing has tried to shore up foreign investor confidence since FDI fell to US$126 billion in 2016, the first drop since the global financial crisis, on complaints over rising costs, cancellations of tax preferences, an uneven playing field for foreign firms, and limited market access.

FDI bounced back by 4 per cent to US$131 billion last year.

The central government has announced a series of market opening measures since April, including allowing foreign investors to take controlling stakes in joint ventures in financial services and car manufacturing, two sectors that were previously tightly protected.

Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said the ministry was coordinating with Shanghai to expand the country’s first pilot free trade zone in an attempt to draw in more foreign investment.

The move is the latest effort by Beijing to offset the uncertainty caused by the unprecedented trade war with the United States, which has started to dampen the investment climate.

The US has levied tariffs of 10 to 25 per cent on about US$250 billion worth of Chinese merchandise, about half of its total shipments to the US. The ministry said previously that about half of those goods were produced by foreign-funded firms.

The FDI earthquake you probably missed, and what it signals for global trade

In Washington on Wednesday, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said trade talks between China and the US had resumed at “all levels”, paving the way for a meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the G20 meeting in Argentina later this month.

Amid the trade war, Beijing has received financial endorsements from some multinational companies and organisations. For instance, German giant BASF announced a plan in July to invest US$10 billion in a new chemical complex in the southern province of Guangdong, while BMW said in September that it would raise its stake in its China car-making joint venture to 75 per cent from half.

In late October, the World Bank said China had made one of the biggest improvements in its business environment among countries in the world, with its ranking in the annual Do Business Survey jumped to 46 from 78 last year.

However, doubts remain over just how quickly China will act on its pledges to open up its market.

Immediately after Xi made a series of promises at the first China International Import Expo a week ago, the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China said the vast majority of government commitments announced earlier had not been realised.

“This constant repetition, without sufficient concrete measures or timelines being introduced, has left the European business community increasingly desensitised to these kinds of promises,” the chamber said.