Beijing faces EC inquiry as insurers wait

Stephen E Philion philion at
Sat Aug 5 12:52:59 PDT 2000

SCMP Saturday, August 5, 2000

Beijing faces EC inquiry as insurers wait



The European Commission has launched an investigation into the

apparent failure by Beijing to release more insurance licences to

European companies.

Beijing made the commitment to hand out licences as part of an

agreement with EC Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, to secure the

mainland's entry to the World Trade Organisation.

Under the terms of the deal, the mainland had undertaken to start

issuing more of the highly coveted licences 60 days after the signing

of the bilateral agreement.

Insurance licences for European businesses were a key part of the WTO

discussions between the mainland and Europe.

Access to Beijing's insurance market will be seen as a key test of the

mainland's commitment to abide by WTO regulations.

Beijing should have started issuing licences on July 27, but only two

European companies have received permission to start insurance

operations in the mainland.

Commission spokesman Anthony Gooch said inquiries were under way,

although he cautioned it might be an administrative oversight causing

the delay.

Revelations Beijing has not honoured one of its WTO commitments come

one week after the mainland wrapped up the latest round of its WTO

entry talks in Geneva amid allegations of backtracking on some of the

earlier promises it had made in bilateral deals.

Under WTO rules, all the market-opening concessions made to one

country have to be "multilateralised" to all 137 member countries

before a new country can join.

During the Geneva talks, however, some delegates complained mainland

negotiators were not including the full extent of the commitments made

in the final draft documents that will enshrine Beijing's entry into

the WTO.

Yesterday, Mr Gooch said France, Germany and Britain had tabled

official complaints to the commission, which in turn had decided to


It is understood two companies from Germany, Allianz Group and

Gerling; two from Britain, CGNU and Standard Life Assurance; two from

the Netherlands, Aegon and ING Insurance; and one from Italy,

Assicurazioni Generali have all applied for licences from the China

Insurance Regulatory Commission.

However, some companies have reportedly been told that they will have

to wait another month before they can expect to receive operating


ING and Generali both said they had been granted operating licences,

but the other companies were still waiting.

Aegon may receive a licence through its US subsidiary, Transamerica.

Presently, only a handful of European companies are allowed to offer

insurance services in the mainland, including Britain's Prudential and

Royal & Sun Alliance, Switzerland's Winterthur, and France's AXA.


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