China Permitting Greater Access to US Securities

China promised to allow US banks, securities firms and insurance companies greater access to its financial markets during two days of high-level talks. Insurance provider AIG and Merrill Lynch may benefit from the increased opportunities to sell into China’s vast market. Some congressional critics dont like it.

The Treasury Department said in a fact sheet that China agreed to lift a ban on the entry of new foreign securities firms and to allow existing foreign companies to expand their operations to include brokerage and fund management.

In addition, foreign institutional investors will be able to buy up to an aggregate total of $30 billion of shares listed on Chinese exchanges, up from the current limit of $10 billion (euro7.41 billion), Treasury said.

China also pledged to streamline the application process for financial firms to sell 401(k)-style retirement plans, also known as enterprise annuities, the department said. They also agreed to allow Chinese banks that are partly owned by foreign banks to offer credit and debit cards in China’s currency, the yuan, which “will allow U.S. banks to offer a full range” of yuan-denominated services, the department said.

Foreign ownership of Chinese banks is currently capped at 25 percent. U.S. business groups such as the Financial Services Forum, which represents companies such as Citigroup and Bank of America, had pushed for China to raise that limit but were unsuccessful.

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