China’s new free trade zones are expected to create new growth momentum to develop the service, logistics and high-end manufacturing sectors via foreign investment and domestic support in both inland and costal provinces, business experts and officials said on Sept 1.
Their comments came after the central government decided to set up seven new FTZs in the provinces of Liaoning, Zhejiang, Henan, Hubei, Sichuan and Shaanxi, and in Chongqing municipality, taking the total number of such zones to 11 as it looks to replicate the success of previous trials, the Ministry of Commerce announced on Aug 31.
FTZs are designed to provide greater access and convenience for foreign companies to expand in China and for Chinese companies to move money abroad－in diverse services and financial operations, as well as in manufacturing.
For foreign companies especially from developed economies, FTZs in these provinces and municipalities can help establish beachheads quickly in important services such as healthcare, education and transportation, said Liu Chenyang, a researcher with the APEC study center at Nankai University in Tianjin.
The first and second batch of China’s FTZs are all in the country’s coastal regions, including Shanghai, Guangdong and Tianjin.
Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said among the successful trials in the first two groups of FTZs was the introduction of a “negative list”, which specifies investment sectors as off-limits to foreign investors and allows industries not on the list to follow the same new investment rules as domestic firms.
Xing Houyuan, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, a think tank under the Ministry of Commerce, said the new batch will most likely give priority to inland areas that play a key role in the Belt and Road Initiative, connecting with countries across Europe and Asia.
Central China’s Henan province will tap its potential in transportation and logistics, and Hubei will build high-tech bases and facilitate the development of the Yangtze River Economic Belt.