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China considers easing controls on foreign investment

[BEIJING] China is considering relaxing controls on inbound foreign investment by only regulating sectors where activity is restricted, the government said on Monday, the latest move to cut red tape to bolster a slowing economy.

Sectors sensitive to foreign investment would be grouped into a "negative list", and foreign investors in all other areas would be treated like their domestic counterparts, the Ministry of Commerce said in a preview of rules that were still being drafted.

"With the negative list, there will be no approval requirement for most foreign investment," it said in a statement on its website.

Ever since it joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001, China's foreign direct investment (FDI) has grown steadily as firms vie to enter the country to take advantage of its huge market and large workforce.

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But previous investment was mostly concentrated in the manufacturing business, and sectors such as the oil, banking and telecommunication industries remained largely closed to foreign investors.

China's FDI last year hit a record U$119.6 billion, even though growth was at a two-year low as the country's slowing economy dampened investor appetite for Chinese assets.

Chinese authorities issued similar draft rules last November to cut the number of sectors where China limits foreign investment to 35 from 79, opening up areas such as real estate, steel and oil refining.