The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in China -- a nonprofit helping American companies doing business in China -- urged Beijing to open up its service industries, including insurance, healthcare and retail, to foreign competitors. In a report released Friday, the nonprofit said that “market openness” could help the country stabilize its volatile stock markets and reduce dependence on trade to drive economic growth.
“An open, dynamic and innovative service sector has the potential to transform China’s economy,” AmCham China Chairman James Zimmerman said, in a statement accompanying the report. “Unlocking the potential of services in areas such as the financial sector, healthcare, education, and logistics would bring immense benefits to Chinese people and the companies they work for.”
The report comes at a time when China’s weak export and manufacturing data, and a rout in the stock markets, have raised concerns over the health of the world’s second-largest economy. The downturn -- which has resulted in China’s stock markets losing more than 40 percent since peaking in June -- has also cast doubts over policymakers’ commitment to plans for market reforms.
However, Zimmerman said that the recent economic downturn should encourage the Chinese government to open faster.
“For the Chinese economy's own good, they need to move faster,” Zimmerman reportedly said during a press conference Friday.
Lester Ross, AmCham’s deputy chairman, said that opening up the market could also help China prevent disasters like the recent chemical explosion in Tianjin, which killed at least 145 people. According to an earlier estimate by the Credit Suisse Group, insurance claims over the disaster may reach as high as $1.5 billion.
Ross added that China’s insurance industry lacks the experience of foreign insurers at spotting potential risks and ways to mitigate them.
“The more of that China has, the less likely it would be that it's going to have casualties and disasters like those we have recently seen,” he reportedly said.
The chamber also expressed concerns over the impact of China’s lack of transparency in regulatory decisions and government support for state-run companies on foreign investors in the country.
“Numerous service industries in China face an uneven playing field due to government support for state-owned enterprises and designated oligopolies within their sectors,” AmCham said, in the statement. “Such government preferences, and the benefits the state-owned enterprises receive, restrict both foreign and domestic companies’ ability to operate in the market."