BEIJING, Dec. 7 (Xinhua)--After three rounds of expansion, China sees the establishment of a big free trade zone (FTZ) kingdom, which, composed 11 free trade zones (FTZs) with different characteristics and content, has become a new engine for China’s opening-up in the new era.
Established in September 2013, China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone was the first of its kind in China. The FTZs in Guangdong, Tianjin and Fujian were approved to be established in April 2015, and another 7 FTZs in Liaoning, Zhejiang, Henan, Hubei, Chongqing, Sichuan and Shaanxin were approved to be established in March 2017.
Shanghai FTZ: promoting reform and innovation concepts and achievements nationwide
Shanghai FTZ has operated for more than four years. The reform and innovation concepts and achievements of Shanghai FTZ have been replicated all over the country.
To adopt the best practices and general rules in the facilitation of international trade, Shanghai FTZ initiated the reform of “single window” to integrate port management resources and break the barriers of information island by extending the coverage of “single window” from the departments of customs, inspection and quarantine at the beginning to 22 departments and units at central and local level. The items of enterprises’ declaration have decreased by 65 percent on ship declaration and 24 percent on goods declaration, saving costs of more than 2 billion yuan for enterprises. The international trade “single window” in Shanghai has been duplicated and applied in China as the best case of FTZ reform practices.
Shanghai FTZ has also carried out pilot reform measures regarding 116 administrative approval procedures including the “separation of business license from operating permit” , which are being implemented in the other 10 FTZs, as well as in the national demonstration zones for independent innovation and national high-tech industry development zones. 37 reform measures in the investment area like the filing management of foreign investment and the “single window” for admittance system of enterprises are also being promoted nationwide. 34 trade facilitation measures initiated in Shanghai FTZ like “entering FTZ before declaration” and “collective declaration for different batches” are now under orderly implementation at various levels in Yangtze River reaches and in the special areas monitored by the customs. 23 reform outcomes in financial system innovation such as the cross-border financing and interest rate liberalization are being shared nationwide.
Tianjin FTZ: promoting coordinated development of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region
Tianjin FTZ, the first FTZ in the northern part of Chinese mainland, is one of the second group of FTZs approved by the State Council. Since its operation, Tianjin FTZ has been proactively serving the coordinated development of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region by building a highly efficient opening-up platform.
Many enterprises from Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province registered in Tianjin FTZ, aim to realize the transformation and upgrading of enterprises, rather than copying their old models, said an official from Tianjin FTZ. Tianjin FTZ plays the role of catalyst and new engine for the upgrading and transformation of regional economy rather than a water pump that exhausts the regional resources.
It is proposed in “The Work Program for China (Tianjin) Pilot Free Trade Zone Serving the Coordinated Development of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region” to establish a joint work consultation mechanism including the commerce departments in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei.
So far, Tianjin FTZ has made remarkable achievements in integrated reform of customs clearance in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region. The time of customs clearance for Tianjin enterprises importing and exporting goods through the Capital Airport has been reduced by 8 hours with on-the-way freight cost lowered by 30 percent. The time of the customs clearance for imported and exported goods by enterprises from Beijing and Hebei through Tianjin Port has been reduced by 3 days with the cost of clearance lowered by nearly 30 percent. The integration of cross-regional inspection and quarantine in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei, has reduced the clearance time of every batch of goods by 0.5 days and the shipment cost per standard container by 120 yuan, with the rate of fast clearance being increased to 88 percent. Ten dry ports have been set up in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei.
Tianjin FTZ has been proactively serving Beijing's non-capital-city functions by strengthening its cooperation with centrally administered state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in Beijing, according to Shan Zefeng, Deputy Chief of Tianjin Binhai New Area. Currently, more than 40 centrally administered SOEs or their holding companies have set up their functional headquarters in Binhai New Area, including China CO-OP Group, China Huaneng Group and China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation. Binhai New Area has attracted more than 400 programs for the integrated development of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei with total size of investment exceeding 100 billion yuan. Binhai New Area has expanded its cooperation between Tianjin and Hebei by signing strategic cooperation agreements with cities like Tangshan and Cangzhou to better combine the dry port resources for the purpose of advancing comprehensive cooperation in near-port industries, transportation facilities, tourism industry and health sectors.
Dividends of FTZs attract candidates all over China
On March 31, 2017, the State Council approved the launch of another 7 FTZs, namely, China (Liaoning) Pilot Free Trade Zone, China (Zhejiang) Pilot Free Trade Zone, China (Henan) Pilot Free Trade Zone, China (Hubei) Pilot Free Trade Zone, China (Chongqing) Pilot Free Trade Zone, China (Sichuan) Pilot Free Trade Zone and China (Shaanxi) Pilot Free Trade Zone. The launching of the 3rd batch of FTZs signifies an overall upgrading of pilot reforms in the breadth of areas and the depth of contents.
Focusing the pilot tasks identified in the overall FTZ program, the seven new FTZs have seen a large amount of work done in replicating the successful experience of other FTZs, promoting investment and trade facilitation and accelerating the transformation of government functions. In particular, positive progress was made in making innovations based on special features of these zones.
For example, Liaoning has put forward relevant thinking on SOE reform focusing on resolving the difficult issues at hand; Zhejiang has taken multiple measures simultaneously to promote the whole-industry-chain investment and trade facilitation for oil products; Henan has become one of the first to launch pilot programs in deepening the business system reform and the commitment system for investment projects, with institutional innovation as the core; Hubei in deepening the reforms to delegate power, streamline administration and optimize government services, has published a list of the first 378 items to be implemented immediately, online and in one go; Chongqing has been actively promoting interconnectivity between post tax clearance and cross-border electric commerce, and exploring new rules governing the post tax regime in transnational railway transport; Sichuan has pioneered a “one bill system” based on multimodal transport, and been actively exploring the nature of the property rights in railway bill of lading; Shaanxi has been actively promoting the establishment of a modern agricultural international cooperation center so as to explore innovations in modern agricultural exchange and cooperation mechanisms.
Most of the existing 11 FTZs in China undertake the tasks of integrating with the Belt and Road Initiative.
In the future development of FTZs, the successful experience gathered in eastern coastal areas will be transplanted to the development of other FTZs. The know-how from the FTZs in Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangdong and Fujian will be promoted, popularized, supplemented and improved in central and western China. Meanwhile, more provinces and countries could be involved in building of FTZs to increase the synergy between FTZs and the Belt and Road Initiative. Such moves will generate more opportunities to the development of FTZs and provide new power and guarantee for the social and economic growth of the country, said a person in charge of Institute of Finance, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. (edited by Tong Wei)