China, German promise closer financial cooperation

By JOE McDONALD, BEIJING, Jan 18 (AP) — China and Germany promised Friday to open their markets wider to each other’s banks and insurers, giving Beijing a burst of positive trade news amid conflicts with Washington and Europe.

The two sides affirmed support for a global trading system that other governments worry is threatened by President Donald Trump’s “America first” policies. That followed a regular annual meeting between German’s finance minister and China’s economy czar.

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, left, and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He arrive for the China-Germany High Level Financial Dialogue at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, Pool)

The initiatives reflect Beijing’s determination to press ahead with changes aimed at making its state-dominated economy more productive and to reduce reliance on the U.S. market by building commercial ties with other countries.

China has tried without success to recruit Germany as an ally in its tariff war with Trump. Berlin expresses support for free trade but Chancellor Angela Merkel has stressed her government is not taking sides.

Delegations led by German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz and China’s economy czar, Vice Premier Liu He, signed agreements to cooperate more closely on financial regulation.

They included no details or commercial commitments, but Liu said Beijing welcomes “more qualified German banks to participate in the opening and innovation of China’s financial market.”

The two governments support their institutions doing “cross-border business in banking, securities, insurance and other fields,” the vice premier said.

Beijing has promised repeatedly to carry out long-delayed commitments made when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 to open its banking, insurance and securities markets.

The government promised in 2017 to allow full foreign ownership of banks and insurers for the first time but business groups say they need to see details of regulations to know whether those opportunities are worth pursuing.

Chinese regulators have suspended issuing licenses to American companies in finance due to the tariff hikes imposed Trump in the fight over Beijing’s technology ambitions.

Beijing also faces pressure over technology from the European Union. The 28-nation trade bloc filed a challenge in the WTO in June to Chinese rules it says hamper foreign companies in protecting and profiting from their own technology.

Friday’s talks were “also about advancing multilateral cooperation,” Scholz said before the event began. He cited Chinese-German cooperation in the Group of 20 major economies and on Africa, taxation and other issues.

“We want to make further progress,” he said.

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