China's pilot free trade zones have served as test beds for reforms and as major drivers of local economic growth since the first FTZ – the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone – was established in 2013.
Offering preferential policies for importing, handling, manufacturing and exporting of goods, as well as other advantageous policies such as tax incentives, free flow and exchange of capital, and streamlined regulation and fast-tracked customs procedures, they have acted as proving grounds for reforms and become magnets for foreign investments.
In the first half of this year, the country’s 18 existing FTZs, each of which has its own particular focus and role, attracted a combined total of 80.8 billion yuan ($12 billion) in foreign investment, 17.1 per cent of the total for the country. They also accounted for 15.6 per cent of China’s foreign trade, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
Based on this successful practice, China announced on Monday that it will establish three more pilot free trade zones, along with the expansion of the existing free trade zone in the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang, demonstrating its commitment to continued opening-up at a time when countries are displaying a tendency to be more inward looking as a result of the global health crisis.
The master plan outlines the priorities for each zone and pledges to give them greater space to explore reforms.
The priorities for the Beijing pilot FTZ are innovation and the digital economy and it is tasked with creating a first-class international environment for innovation and entrepreneurship, advancing innovation in the management of the trade in services and exploring the construction of an international port for the trade in information.
The goals for the new pilot FTZ in Hunan are to establish an international investment and trade corridor linking the Yangtze River Economic Belt and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, and to be the leading area for in-depth economic and trade cooperation with Africa.
The Anhui pilot FTZ is intended to promote the integrated development of the Yangtze River Delta region and to set the standard for the opening-up of the inland region by promoting the in-depth integration of scientific and technological innovation and the development of the real economy.
The expansion of the Zhejiang pilot FTZ is to enable the establishment of a commodity resource allocation base centred on oil and gas.
The announcement of the three new FTZs and the expansion of an existing one underscore how successfully the FTZs have played their designed roles in helping to attract foreign investment and foreign trade. The plan not only highlights China’s commitment to further opening-up, but also the government’s resolve to continue advancing reforms to spur the economy despite the pandemic.
China Daily/Asia News Network