Premier Li Keqiang visits the Comprehensive Service Center of the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone on Sept 18.[Photo by Ding Lin/China Daily]
The Comprehensive Service Center of the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone was abuzz as Premier Li Keqiang arrived on a fact-finding mission on the morning of Sept 18.
Company owners who happened to be there at about 11 am for registrations, as well as staff who had been waiting for hours, instantly surrounded the premier, taking pictures and videos, reaching out for handshakes and greeting the leader.
After walking through the throng, Li examined paperwork prepared by the local authorities and then asked the public for comments regarding the zone.
Wu Qiong, shareholder of a registration agency that caters to companies interested in entering the FTZ, was the first to weigh in.
Wu told Li he expects more open policies regarding overseas financing. In response, Li suggested he watch closely what happens with the upcoming Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect.
Following his brief talk with the premier, Wu said: “I have been observing the progress of the FTZ since it was officially launched. We can see that the central government is paying great attention to the FTZ, as top leaders including President Xi Jinping and Vice-Premier Wang Yang have paid visits here.”
After chatting with Wu, Li was guided to the heart of the service center, where three tables had been set up to demonstrate the road that led to the new “negative” list. A green table showed 186 documents before the reform, a blue table held 151 documents after the first adjustment, and an orange table displayed the 35 documents that are currently needed. Li noted that the list should be further shortened to make more room for the market.
After the presentation, Li again sought the public’s input on the free trade zone.
One company owner asked him about the international ship registration system that was included in FTZ policies but has not yet been put into effect.
Then Yan Lun, business manager of a fertilizer trading company from Hubei province who had just submitted application materials for an import/export license, told Li he expects support from the FTZ authorities regarding financing and insurance.
The premier responded that “the FTZ serves largely to expand the market and inject more vitality into the companies here.
“I guess you are all coming from the so-called grassroots without much support and starting up your own businesses here. We expect you to grow from grass into strong sprouts and even tall trees. We will work together to help you loosen the soil, water and fertilize.
“I hope you will not only set foot here but also make your companies prosper. The FTZ promises a bright future, and Shanghai will also promise a bright future,” Li said.
Wu Wei, an employee at Bank of China’s FTZ branch, told China Daily that the premier stopped by the branch later, asking customers for ideas on financing services in the free trade zone.
“Premier Li was very much concerned about the service efficiency and quality,” she said.