BEIJING -- China agreed Friday to let foreigners own bigger stakes in its securities firms and promised to limit export subsidies after a high-level dialogue with the United States went ahead despite a standoff over a Chinese legal activist.
China's government also said it was implementing an earlier commitment to expand access to its auto insurance market and would allow greater foreign investment in Chinese stocks and bonds. It promised to pursue reforms of its controversial exchange rate controls but gave no timeline.
This week's Strategic and Economic Dialogue came as a weak global economy and pressure to generate jobs is fueling U.S. demands for Beijing to lower market barriers and scrap currency controls. Washington complains China's currency is undervalued, giving its exporters an unfair advantage and hurting foreign competitors and the global economy.
The dialogue was overshadowed by the tussle over legal activist Chen Guangcheng but went ahead as scheduled. He has made a high-profile plea for U.S. sanctuary after escaping house arrest. The annual talks are meant to head off trade disputes between the world's two biggest economies and promote cooperation in environmental and other issues.
Chinese officials agreed to raise the cap on foreign ownership of securities joint-ventures to 49 percent. That is above China's promise of 20 percent ownership as part of its World Trade Organization obligations.
The two governments said they would start negotiations this summer on limits to export credits. China's billions of dollars in loans and other support to exporters have been criticized as anticompetitive subsidies.
"These important steps do not resolve all of our concerns, or China's, but they do represent progress that translates into greater opportunities for U.S. workers and companies," said U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
For its part, the U.S. promised to facilitate high-tech exports to China, responding to Beijing's complaints about restrictions on "dual-use" goods with possible military applications.
Chinese officials also announced plans to allow foreign and domestic auto financing companies to issue bonds regularly, a step that could give a boost to U.S. automakers relying on China -- the world's biggest auto market -- for growth. China said it had amended regulations to implement a previous commitment to allow foreign insurance companies to sell third-party auto insurance in the country.
Earlier Friday, Geithner said in a meeting with President Hu Jintao that China's plans to move toward a more market-based exchange rate are "very promising." Last month, Geithner complained that an undervalued yuan was a source of "unfair competition."
Chinese envoys made a "clear, sustained commitment" to more exchange-rate reform at this week's talks, said a U.S. official who had briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.