New licences were issued to foreign insurers just a day after China’s accession to the World Trade Organisation. The Shanghai joint venture of Manulife Financial was allowed to open a branch in Guangzhou. MetLife and New York Life International, both from the US, have been granted licences to set up ventures with domestic firms to sell life insurance policies in a mainland city. New York Life plans to form a 50-50 partnership with China’s top household appliance manufacturer, Haier Group, pending regulatory approval. The US company praised Haier’s professionalism, distribution network and loyal customer base. MetLife said its initial plan was to sell individual insurance policies through agents.
AIG of the US, which has the largest presence of any foreign insurer in China, has been granted approval to open fully owned insurance operations in Beijing, Dongguan, Suzhou and Jiangmen, said Reuters. There- after, AIG would have to operate as joint ventures with a maximum foreign holding of 50 per cent, as specified in WTO regulations. The ruling in December appeared to settle a dispute between AIG and European insurers about access to the China market.