Beijing has announced a pilot program that will allow Chinese citizens to invest in the Hong Kong stock market and New Zealand says it will take Australia to the World Trade Organization over a ban on apple imports. Claudia Blume at VOA's Asia News Center in Hong Kong has more on these and other business stories from the region.

The Chinese government will allow mainland investors to buy Hong Kong shares. Hong Kong, unlike mainland China, allows the free flow of money in and out of its financial markets.

Stephen Green is a senior economist for Standard Chartered Bank in Shanghai. He says Beijing wants to make it easier to shift funds overseas because there is too much cash pouring into the country, causing pressure on the currency to appreciate. Another reason, he says, is that at the moment Chinese investors have limited options for investing their money.

"It's basically put it on deposit at the bank, buy a house or invest in a very volatile - albeit very good in the last few months - stock market," he said. "And so it's part of an effort to allow them to diversify their exposure to various assets, which will hopefully increase their return in the long term and also reduce some of the risks involved for them."

China's central bank raised interest rates for the fourth time this year. The bank's main lending rate will go up by 18 basis points to 7.02 percent. The benchmark deposit rate will rise 27 basis points to 3.6 percent.

Beijing has raised interest rates several times this year in an effort to slow the rapidly growing economy and to control inflation, which reached its highest level in over a decade last month.

New Zealand will take Australia to the World Trade Organization over a dispute about apple exports. Canberra banned the import of apples from New Zealand 86 years ago to prevent a plant disease from spreading to Australia. Years of effort to resolve the issue bilaterally failed. Wellington says it hopes the WTO can persuade Australia to lift the ban, which it calls a barrier to free trade.

"The percentage of apple exports to Australia in the short term is not all that significant," said Jim Anderton, New Zealand's minister for agriculture. It is really the principle of gaining access to the market and being able to build on a secure base the future of our market access."

Filipino men have some catching up to do: Women far outnumber them at the top of the corporate ladder. While there were 2.5 million female executives in the Philippines in 2004, only 1.6 million executive jobs were held by men. The Philippines' Department of Labor says the ratio of women holding top posts is the world's best. Ninety-seven percent of businesses in the country have women in senior management positions.