Investors from abroad will get wider scope in business operations, choice of industries
A new free trade zone in North China will allow foreign investors to participate in China’s ancient salt trade for the first time. The decision comes just months after the central government decided to scrap the country’s 2,000-year-old monopoly on salt and open the business to domestic private traders.
The Tianjin Pilot Free Trade Zone will allow foreigners to establish sole-proprietor businesses, rather than joint ventures, and invest in salt wholesaling, according to Zong Guoying, a deputy to the National People’s Congress and head of the Tianjin Binhai New Area.
“Salt is one of the more than 40 business sectors that will be open to foreign capital when the 120-square-kilometer zone becomes operational in the coming weeks,” Zong said.
Foreign venture capitalists will be allowed to initiate and manage renminbi funds in the zone, and overseas investors will also be allowed to participate in one of China’s boom sectors — the design and manufacture of high-speed railways, subways and intercity and urban rail systems.
Overseas investors will be allowed to set up employment agencies for performers, and to operate education agencies to help students apply for schools abroad.
The central government decided in December to establish three pilot free trade zones to explore the effects of greater opening up. The move came about one year after the pioneering China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone was opened under what some observers regarded as the boldest reform steps for decades.
Zhang Zhiqiang, secretary-general of the Tianjin municipal government, said the FTZ will have three separate sections, each with different development priorities.
The 30-sq-km section centered around the airport will develop advanced manufacturing, aerospace and aviation logistics industries. Meanwhile, the port section, located within the greater Tianjin Port, the world’s fourth-largest by merchandise throughput capacity, will focus on shipping logistics, international trade and financial leasing.
The largest area will be located in the central business district in the Binhai New Area and will concentrate on financial and technological innovation and cross-border e-commerce.
Zhang said high-end manufacturing and financial leasing are expected to become the defining characteristics of the FTZ.
“Both industries have solid foundations in Tianjin. We have set up an Airbus plant that will be expanded over time, and the city government is planning to establish and operate the country’s first online platform for financial leasing,” he said.
A tribunal is expected to open soon to settle disputes related to the FTZ and ensure professional judgments in cases that require detailed legal knowledge, such as financial disputes and infringements of intellectual property rights.
Zhang Min in Tianjin contributed to this story.