China Approves 12 New Regional Free Trade Zone Proposals

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Editor’s Note: Contrary to what Xinhua News Agency reported last week on Wednesday, January 22, the Ministry of Commerce clarified on Friday, January 24, that the State Council has NOT approved any regional free trade zones except for the one in Shanghai. For further information, please see here.

Jan. 23 – Within less than four months since the launch of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (FTZ), China’s State Council has approved 12 more regional FTZs, reported on Wednesday by Economic Information Daily (EID), a news agency directly supervised by the state owned Xinhua News Agency.

According to the authoritative source cited by EID, local governments have submitted their proposals with preliminary plans to the State Council. Following the proposals’ approval, several relevant departments will initiate on-site investigations and discussions on the plans’ feasibility, and revise the detailed schemes accordingly. The investigation and revision process could last more than a year.

The specific list of the 12 regions has not been revealed. However, according to the EID source, currently only Guangdong Province and Tianjin have completed the investigations, while most of the others are just at the beginning of this process.

“Basically there is no quota or time limit (on building up the FTZs), and only the ones that have fully fulfilled the criterion of the state government would get final approvals,” the source added. “In fact, lots of proposals submitted by the local governments still focus on providing preferential policies and lack innovative approaches, and have been further revised several times.”

“Shanghai FTZ is attractive because of its innovative administration system instead of preferential tax policies. It is a brand new way to open up the Chinese market,” commented by Huo Jianguo, the president of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation (CAITEC), a think tank institution of China’s Ministry of Commerce.

“After meeting in person with government officials, it is clear to us that the Shanghai Free Trade Zone will foster the ongoing opening-up of China’s domestic markets. It is a promising sign for foreign investors that China is now pushing to expand this free trade zone-model throughout the rest of the country,” said Yao Lu, Legal and Regulatory Editor for Dezan Shira & Associates.

Up till now, more than ten cities or provinces have considered applying for regional FTZs as their key task for 2014, including Zhejiang, Guangdong, Tianjin, Suzhou, Wuxi, Shandong, Liaoning, Henan, Fujian, Sichuan, Hefei, Guangxi, and Yunnan. Other places like Beijing and Xinjiang have also showed interest in establishing FTZs.

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