Beijing faces EC inquiry as insurers wait
SHEEL KOHLI in London
The European Commission has launched an investigation into the
apparent failure by Beijing to release more insurance licences to
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
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
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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