The highly anticipated db X-trackers Harvest CSI 300 China A-Shares Fund (NYSEArca: ASHR) officially debuts today, becoming the first exchange traded fund listed in the U.S. to offer investors direct access to Chinese A-shares.

Deutsche’s partnership with Harvest Fund Management, China’s second-largest asset manager, is a key element in the bank being able to offer an A-shares ETF that holds actual equities. Harvest is a Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (RQFII), which means it meets Chinese regulatory requirements to be a foreign owner of A-shares. China’s A-shares trade in Shanghai and Shenzhen. [Exposure to Restricted A-Shares With ETFs]

“As a truly global bank, we are uniquely positioned to provide global access and perspective to U.S. investors,” said Jerry Miller, Head of Asset & Wealth Management Americas, in a statement. “Unprecedented and sophisticated products such as ASHR exemplify our strategic vision for the exchange-traded products business in the Americas.”

ASHR will start with a gross expense ratio of 1.08%, but Deutsche expects that will be reduced as the fund accumulates assets. The new ETF will track the CSI 300 Index, a collection of the large-caps including China Minsheng Banking, China Merchants Bank, Industrial Bank, Ping An Insurance, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, Haitong Securities and China Vanke. [Deutsche Offers New Spin on China ETFs]

“ASHR will provide American investors with direct access to a key international market for the first time, as other ETFs that seek to provide exposure to China A-shares must do so indirectly via derivatives or other instruments,” said Martin Kremenstein, Head of Passive Asset Management for Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management Americas, in the statement. “This milestone ETF demonstrates our commitment to introducing first-of-their-kind products that use innovative strategies to fill previously unmet gaps in investor demand.”

Due to restrictions on foreign ownership of A-shares, China is far behind other large markets, both developed and emerging, in terms of foreign ownership of its equities. Even including Chinese stocks listed in Hong Kong or New York, foreign ownership of Chinese stocks was just 11.4% at the end of 2012, half the level seen in Japan and barely more than 20% of foreign ownership of German stocks.

While the size of the A-shares market is still well below its 2007 peak of over $6 trillion, the number of listed companies is approaching 2,500, nearly a double from the 2006 level, according to Deutsche Bank data. The total A-shares market cap was just under $4 trillion at the end of last year.