China to approve 7 more Free Trade Zones: Report

BEIJING – General plans for China’s third group of free trade zones (FTZs), announced inAugust, will be approved soon, the Shanghai Securities News reported Monday, the lateststep in the country’s expanding FTZ network.

In August, China approved the establishment of seven new free trade zones, includingcoastal Zhejiang and Liaoning provinces and the landlocked provinces of Henan, Hubei,Sichuan and Shaanxi as well as Chongqing municipality, as the country looks to replicate thesuccess of previous trials.

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The total number of FTZs now stands at 11 after the first one was founded in Shanghai threeyears ago and a second group was established in coastal Tianjin, Fujian and Guangdong inlate 2014.

According to Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng in August, Liaoning province in NortheastChina will focus on market-oriented reforms to transform the old industrial base into a morecompetitive area, while Zhejiang is expected to explore trade liberalization of commoditiesand improve its abilities in the global distribution of commodities.

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Central China’s Henan will tap its potential in transportation and logistics, and Hubei will buildhigh-tech bases and facilitate the development of the Yangtze River Economic Belt.

China hopes the FTZs in Chongqing, Sichuan and Shaanxi, all in the country’s less developedwest, will help open the regions to bring out their economic vitality.

FTZs are part of government efforts to test reform policies, including interest rate liberalizationand fewer investment restrictions, to better integrate the economy with international practices.

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Among the successful trials in the first two groups of FTZs has been the introduction of a”negative list,” which specifies investment sectors off-limits to foreign investors and allowsindustries not on the list to follow the same new investment rules as domestic firms.

Encouraged by the results, China is considering expanding the approach nationwide.