China promises to ease foreign access to gas, call centers

Economists say Beijing’s market-opening measures reflect growing confidence Chinese companies can compete. (Reuters)
Updated 01 July 2019

China promises to ease foreign access to gas, call centers

  • Initiative is part of a series of Beijing’s market-opening measures
  • Business groups welcome the changes but say many have little effect so far on foreign companies

BEIJING: China promised on Sunday to allow more foreign ownership of gas pipelines, call centers and some other businesses in the latest of a series of market-opening measures.

The Communist Party has announced a series of tariff cuts and market-opening steps over the past 18 months aimed at making its state-dominated economy more productive. 

The moves come amid trade tension with Washington, though none directly addresses American complaints about Beijing’s technology ambitions and controls on foreign companies.

Sunday’s Cabinet announcement also promised more foreign access to some businesses in agriculture and mining.

Business groups welcome the changes but say many have little effect so far on foreign companies. Business groups say they need to see regulations for industries that are to be opened before they can know whether those will be profitable for foreign newcomers, who will face entrenched Chinese competition.

Sunday’s announcement is part of a shift by Beijing to use of a “negative list” system of investment regulation. That would put some areas off-limits to foreign investors and leave the rest of China’s market open. Until now, foreign companies have been limited to operating in a “positive list” of areas picked by regulators.

Economists say Beijing’s market-opening measures reflect growing confidence Chinese companies can compete and a recognition of the need for more competition.

HIGHLIGHTS

• President Xi Jinping’s government has launched a flurry of such reform initiatives since he was confirmed for a second five-year term as ruling party leader in 2017.

• Xi spent his first term directing a marathon anti-corruption campaign.

• Beijing previously promised to reduce or end limits on foreign ownership in China’s auto, insurance and other industries.

President Xi Jinping’s government has launched a flurry of such reform initiatives since he was confirmed for a second five-year term as ruling party leader in 2017.

Xi had been expected to launch economic changes after he took power in 2012. Instead, he spent his first term directing a marathon anti-corruption campaign and cementing his status as China’s most powerful leader in decades while pressure to shore up declining economic growth mounted.

Beijing’s tariff row with Washington over Chinese technology ambitions has battered exporters, adding to pressure on the ruling party to make other industries more productive.

Sunday’s announcement promised to abolish a requirement that ventures to operate gas and thermal pipeline networks in cities of more than 500,000 must be controlled by the Chinese side.

It promises similar changes for ownership of cinemas, call centers and some other value-added telecom businesses. It promised to abolish rules that say foreign investors in oil and gas exploration must operate through joint ventures with Chinese partners.

Rules that prohibit foreign investment in exploration and mining of molybdenum, tin, antimony and fluorite will be abolished, the statement said.

Beijing previously promised to reduce or end limits on foreign ownership in China’s auto, insurance and other industries.


Saudi female student pilot aims high with flying ambitions

Updated 19 November 2019

Saudi female student pilot aims high with flying ambitions

  • Amirah Al-Saif is among the first batch of 49 female students

DUBAI: Saudi women aiming to emulate Yasmeen Al-Maimani’s feat, the Kingdom’s first female commercial pilot, now have that opportunity as Oxford Aviation Academy has opened its doors for them to take flying lessons and earn their licenses.

One those women raring to earn her pilot wings is 19-year-old Amirah Al-Saif, who enrolled in the aviation academy to fulfill her dream of flying for the Kingdom’s national carrier Saudi Airlines (Saudia).

“They have been very supportive of us females,” Al-Saif, who hails from Riyadh, told Arab News at the sidelines of the Dubai Airshow, when asked about her experience at the academy.

Al-Saif is among the first batch of 49 female students, with six of them already in ground school, expected to receive their licenses by the start of 2021 after a grueling course that requires them to first learn English, Mathematics, Physics and other basic knowledge subjects.

She is also the first in the family to have an interest in the aviation industry.

Student pilot Amirah Al-Saif, right, who hails from Riyadh, is the first in the family to have an interest in the aviation industry. (Supplied)

Those who pass the foundation program can then move on to ground school for practical lessons and ideally graduate in two years with three licenses: the Private Pilot License, Instrument Rating and Commercial Pilot License.

Al-Saif considers herself lucky since she was not constrained take courses abroad for her pilot training, unlike Al-Maimani who had to leave the Kingdom to receive her license, as well as wait for a long time before being eventually hired by Nesma Airlines.

The flying school is located at the King Fahd International Airport in Dammam and is an authorized branch of Oxford Aviation Academy based in the UK.

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