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Bloomberg Feb 6, 2012 9:12 PM ET

China’s decision to allow Citigroup Inc. to issue credit cards may signal an opening of the banking market as the government relaxes restrictions that are the subject of a U.S. complaint at the World Trade Organization.

New York-based Citigroup is the second foreign bank, and the first Western one, allowed to issue credit cards in the world’s most populous nation.

The announcement yesterday came as the WTO, acting on a U.S. complaint, probes the legality of China’s refusal to let foreign companies issue their own bank cards denominated in its currency, or to permit companies such as Visa Inc.American Express Co.MasterCard Inc.Discover Financial Services and First Data Corp. to process card transactions in China.

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