China to ease restrictions on foreign ownership of carmakers

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Fears of a trade war with the USA have also roiled markets in recent weeks, with Washington and Beijing exchanging warnings of tit-for-tat tariffs on a significant portion of their bilateral trade.

SHANGHAI-China said Tuesday it will phase out rules requiring foreign auto makers to share their factory ownership and profits with Chinese companies by 2022, answering US calls for a level playing field in the world's biggest auto market.

A preliminary ruling by China's Commerce Ministry said USA sorghum was being sold at improperly low prices, hurting Chinese farmers.

Since then, President Trump has threatened to raise duties on up to $150 billion of Chinese goods in a dispute over technology policy.

Starting on Wednesday, importers of the product will be required to pay deposits with Chinese customs calculated based on a rate of 178.6 percent, according to the ministry.

China is the largest buyer of USA sorghum - grown mostly in the rural American South, a region that voted heavily for Trump in the 2016 election.

It said preliminary results of a trade probe found United States sorghum, a grain used as animal feed and in alcohol distilling, was sold at improperly low prices that hurt Chinese farmers.

Meanwhile, the average price per tonne dropped 31 percent during the same period, which "caused a fall in prices of Chinese sorghum", Wang said.

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"It has instant impact for firms like Tesla", said Li Yanwei, an analyst with the China Automobile Dealers Association Expert Committee.

President Xi Jinping announced the plans last week without providing any details.

This will be followed by the removal of ownership obstacles in 2022 for makers of commercial vehicles and passenger cars.

The step reflects growing official confidence in China's young but fast-growing carmakers and a desire to make the industry more flexible as Beijing promotes development of electric cars.

The NDRC also said the shipbuilding industry will do away this year with foreign ownership restrictions for firms designing, making and repairing vessels.

China imposed ownership restrictions in 1994, limiting foreign carmakers to owning no more than a 50% share of any local venture.

Sales of sedans, SUVs and minivans past year totalled 24.8 million units, about 55% of which were American, European, Japanese and Korean brands.