Chinese minister supports free-trade ports

Zhong Shan Zhong Shan

China's commerce minister Zhong Shan has shown his support for the construction of free-trade ports in the country.

According to South China Morning Post (SCMP), Mr Zhong, in a statement published by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, pushed for greater freedom to be given to local governments in running free-trade zones (FTZs) in the country - areas which would eventually be developed into free-trade ports.

The minister is the latest senior Chinese government official to back a plan to develop some of the country’s mainland’s developed cities into international metropolises after vice-premier Wang Yang called in November for the area’s own free-trade ports to be built.

China’s mainland has 11 FTZs, including those in the Zhejiang, Guangdong and Fujian provinces.

Chen Bo, a Huazhong University of Science and Technology professor and a local government advisor on policymaking, told SCMP that some policy breakthroughs will occur in this round of efforts to construct free marketplaces comparable with Hong Kong and Singapore.

Mr Chen also said that factors in the plan included increased geographical size, less strict visa rules to facilitate foreign businesspersons’ stays in the mainland, freer cross-border capital flows and reduced business taxes in line with international practices.

Speaking about Mr Zhong’s comment, Frank Feng, chief executive of a visa service firm, said to SCMP: “The commerce minister’s statement is at least a positive message to businesses around the world that China wants to attract and retain them.

“Businesspeople are highly expecting some substantial liberalisations.”

Shanghai is anticipated to be the first region to get the Chinese central government go-ahead to construct a free-trade port. It set up China’s first FTZ in 2013.

According to SCMP, China also needs to work to offset the effect of US President Donald Trump’s tax cut plan, which aims to retain and attract foreign investment in America.

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