China has approved Citigroup (C.NYSE) to issue credit cards in China, a potential sign that Beijing is opening its banking industry under pressure from the WTO, Bloomberg reported. New York-based Citigroup is the first Western bank to be approved to issue credit cards in China and the second foreign bank, after Bank of East Asia (0023.HKG), Hong Kong’s third-largest lender. China currently requires foreign banks to “co-brand” with Chinese operators to issue credit cards and execute payments through the state-owned monopoly China UnionPay Data. The US has spearheaded a complaint that such rules violate a pledge China made when it joined the WTO in 2001 to open its debit and credit card markets to foreign processors by 2006. Citibank received regulatory approval in January to join Orient Securities in setting up a joint-venture securities firm that will be involved in investment banking in the Chinese market, including securities underwriting and sponsoring.