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China may relax limits on individuals investing overseas

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China is studying regulatory changes that would make it easier for individuals to invest overseas, central bank Deputy Governor Yi Gang said at a forum today.

While participating on a panel at the China Development Forum in Beijing, Yi was asked if authorities might relax limits on outbound investment by individuals and potentially allow amounts of US$1 million to US$2 million to freely exit the country.

Yi, who also oversees China’s foreign-exchange regulator, responded by saying,

“I think that in the near future, we can consider an arrangement like that.”

Such measures would add to steps China has taken to reduce limits on the movement of capital since Communist Party leaders declared at the end of 2013 that they wanted to reduce the state’s economic role and make markets “decisive.”

That’s included making it easier for companies to move money offshore and allowing foreign investors to trade Shanghai-listed stocks through a link with Hong Kong’s exchange.

Chinese citizens are currently allowed to invest abroad through funds that are licensed under the Qualified Domestic Institutional Investor programme. These funds receive quotas allowing them to exchange yuan into foreign currencies for investment overseas. Individuals are also able to exchange the equivalent of US$50,000 a year into foreign currency. Yi didn’t elaborate or clarify if authorities were looking at allowing individuals to exchange greater amounts of yuan into foreign currencies.

The Pudong Times newspaper reported last week that Shanghai’s Free Trade Zone may allow individuals to exchange more than the US$50,000 annual limit as part of a trial programme for overseas investments by individuals. The article, which was posted to the website of the city’s Pudong district government, said the trials may start this year.

The Shanghai Free Trade Zone was set up in 2013 as a test ground for economic polices, including those that reduce controls on the movement of capital.


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