An aerial view of the Qianhai free trade zone in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. [Photo by Lu Li/For China Daily]
A three-year action plan released on Monday by the mainland's top economic regulator signaled a potential relaxation or removal of eligibility criteria, shareholding ratios and industry access restrictions for Hong Kong and Macao investors, emphasizing increased openness in the financial sector, experts said.
The plan, unveiled by the National Development and Reform Commission, also highlighted the introduction of special measures to relax market access in the Guangdong-Macao In-depth Cooperation Zone in Hengqin, Guangdong province. More efforts are also expected to support the launch of pilot projects to ease market access requirements in Nansha district, Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province.
The action plan incorporates these opening-up measures into the framework of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, which was signed in 2003 to promote closer economic relations.
Such incorporation, experts said, means the measures are shifting from being independently initiated to being systematic opening-up moves. The goal is to eliminate unreasonable conditions for cross-regional business operations and enable a smoother flow of resources.
"We see in these measures a particularly warm welcome for enterprises from Hong Kong and Macao to invest in the mainland, particularly in the financial sector. In the past, most scenarios were that mainland enterprises went to Hong Kong and Macao," said Zhou Mi, a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.
"Such measures will enhance the effective flow of funds and boost confidence in the international market regarding China's business environment. They are also important to fully leverage the advantages in economic development and resources of Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao, to further deepen cooperation," Zhou said.
In addition to optimizing market access measures, the action plan indicated a commitment to steadily advancing financial market connectivity. Specific measures include expanding the opening of the financial sector to Hong Kong and Macao, supporting cooperation among the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, the Guangzhou Futures Exchange and the Hong Kong stock exchange. It also called for acceleration of the opening up of the bond markets.
The action plan further outlined the exploration of regional pilot projects for cross-border credit cooperation within the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, establishing a mutual recognition mechanism for credit evaluation products.
"The newly proposed mutual recognition of credit evaluation products is crucial and fundamental for expanding the scale of the bond market's connectivity. Since domestic credit evaluation agencies tend to use methodologies and services that differ from those in Hong Kong and Macao, exploring mutually recognized products or services will effectively promote the two-way opening of the financial market," said Charlie Zheng, chief economist of Samoyed Cloud Technology Group, a technology services provider headquartered in Shenzhen, Guangdong province.