As Chinese Insurers Prepare for WTO, More Insurers Seek to Enter the Market

January 15, 2001

According to an announcement released by Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, China’s Insurance Regulatory Commission has been hard at work promulgating new statutes to accord with the principles of the World trade organization, and has been instructing Chinese managers in how to work within WTO rules.

The CIRC noted its approval of two deals which admitted foreign insurers as shareholders in Chinese insurance companies, Winterthur’s equity stake in Tai Kang Life, and Zurich Financial’s investment in New China Life.

Industry regulator Ma Yongwei added that insurance intermediaries weren’t being left out either. “Altogether, the CIRC has approved three brokers, 33 professional agents and three loss adjusters, all filling market vacancies,” said the announcement.

The news comes as negotiators in Geneva are drawing closer to an agreement leading to China’s entry into the world trade body this year. The negotiations still have a ways to go. Although China has agreed to phase out most subsidies, it insists on being classified as a “developing nation” as far as its agricultural sector is concerned. This gives governments the right to subsidize up to 10 percent of their agricultural output.

China has an estimated 900 million small farmers, and its representatives insist on the measure to protect China’s agriculture. In other developments Groupama, France’s second largest multi-line insurer, repeated its interest in entering the Chinese market, and confirmed that it had applied for licenses to form a joint life venture with a Chinese company, and to set up a wholly owned p/c company.

Mass Mutual announced that it was in negotiation with Mercuries & Associates, a Taiwanese department store chain, to acquire a stake, rumored to be around 30 percent, in the company’s privately owned life insurance subsidiary.

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