China renews pledge for wider market access for foreign investors

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s commerce ministry said on Wednesday it will continue to push for the relaxation of market access for foreign investors, renewing efforts to lure foreign capital as the world’s second-largest economy emerges from three years of COVID disruptions.

As China reopens after dropping its zero tolerance policy for COVID-19 in December, convincing foreign investors to return to China will help reinvigorate an economy that grew at its slowest rates last year in half a century.

China will “help foreign companies seize the opportunity to deepen their presence in China,” Shu Jueting, a commerce ministry spokesperson, told reporters.

Shu told reporters that China will also “steadily expand institutional openness.”

A day earlier, China restored the issuance of all categories of visas to foreigners in a move that was largely welcomed by foreign business groups in the country.

China’s fresh efforts to court foreign investors and businesses also came as global uncertainties, from wars to bank crises, push them to search for new safe havens.

“With a vast and open market, China is sure to provide even greater business opportunities for foreign companies in China,” former premier Li Keqiang said in his final government work report at this year’s parliamentary meeting earlier this month.

“We should improve services for foreign-funded companies and facilitate the launch of landmark foreign funded projects.”

Last year, the Chinese economy expanded just 3%, weighed down by restrictive COVID policies, a deep property slump and weak external demand for Chinese goods.

On Tuesday, Goldman Sachs raised its forecast for China’s gross domestic product growth this year to 6% from 5.5%.

The commerce ministry’s Shu said local governments and firms report that a drop in orders remains the biggest challenge for 2023 trade development.

(Reporting by Joe Cash, Liangping Gao and Ryan Woo; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Bernadette Baum)