SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) - China will reduce restrictions on foreign investment and address difficulties facing foreign companies investing in the country, the commerce minister said, according to a transcript of an interview he gave to state media.
Commerce Minister Zhong Shan said China would allow full foreign ownership of companies in more areas of the economy and would reduce the number of industries in which foreign investment was restricted or barred, according to the transcript posted on the Ministry of Commerce's website on Sunday.
The comments appeared to be largely reiterations of past pledges by Chinese officials for further market opening.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) into China rose by 3 percent year-on-year to $135 billion in 2018, Zhong said.
That would mark a slowdown from growth rates of 7.9 percent in 2017 and 4.1 percent in 2016.
But Zhong said China had maintained stable FDI growth "against a gloomy global climate," noting that total FDI around the world had slumped by 41 percent in the first half of last year.
China has been pushing to broaden opportunities for private firms and foreign investors to stimulate an economy that is slowing on the back of weakening domestic demand and a trade war with the United States.
Zhong said "properly handling" trade frictions with the United States was a major task for the ministry in 2019.
The ministry would "conscientiously implement" the consensus to work toward a resolution of the trade row reached by Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. counterpart Donald Trump in Argentina late last year, he added.
The two sides held three days of trade talks at a vice-ministerial level in Beijing last week.
Zhong said the Commerce Ministry would push for the introduction of a foreign investment law as soon as possible, improve the handling of complaints from foreign firms, and encourage foreign investment in manufacturing and high tech.
The ministry would also encourage foreigners to invest in central and western China, he said.
(Reporting by Andrew Galbraith in SHANGHAI and Tom Daly in BEIJING; Editing by Edmund Blair & Kim Coghill)