On 10 April 2018, President Xi Jinping announced a series of economic measures during his keynote speech at the annual conference of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA).
The measures are designed to advance China's economic reforms by easing market access restrictions on foreign investment, improving China's ability to attract foreign capital, strengthening protections for intellectual property rights, and expanding imports.
Some of the steps had been announced previously, including for example:
- Reducing market entry, business scope and ownership restrictions on foreign investment in the banking, securities and insurance industries (see Legal updates, China to further open financial markets and CBRC revises administrative licensing rules on foreign-invested banks).
- Restructuring the State Intellectual Property Office (see Legal update, NPC approves State Council institutional reform plan).
President Xi called for revising the negative list for foreign investment by June, increasing imports by lowering import tariffs on motor vehicles and some other products this year, and lifting foreign equity caps in the automobile, ship and aircraft manufacturing sectors as soon as possible.
President Xi also expressed support for accelerating China's accession to the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement and hosting the new China International Import Expo in Shanghai.
The BFA is a non-profit organisation established in 2001 to promote economic exchange and development among business, government and academic leaders in Asia and beyond.
Philip Cheng, Partner, Hogan Lovells, Shanghai: “The reform measures are part of a concerted effort by the Xi administration to attract foreign investment both to support China's drive to develop the next generation of advanced technologies and to promote competition for China's state-owned enterprises. Xi also appears to be offering an olive branch to the Trump administration and other who criticise China's protectionist trade and investment policies. As with all policy statements of reform, the extent of the liberalisation will be determined by their implementation in practice rather than the letter itself."
Counsel for clients in an industry directly addressed in the speech may wish to work with government relations colleagues to identify any pending policy changes. Counsel for foreign exporters to China will want to pay close attention to any changes in import tariffs. Counsel for clients with foreign-invested entities in China will want to watch for issuance of the new negative list for foreign investment.