July 28, 2021

China’s free trade zones open doors wider to foreign investors

2 min read

NANJING: When Stephen Toope, the vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, toured the Jiangbei New Area in Nanjing, in East China’s Jiangsu province, ‘great’ was his most frequently used word.

In September, Toope led his team to attend a groundbreaking ceremony for the Cambridge University-Nanjing Centre of Technology and Innovation in the new area, which belongs to the Nanjing section of the newly inaugurated Jiangsu pilot free trade zone (FTZ).

He was among the first batch of foreign guests in the zone after the State Council announced six new pilot FTZs in August

Toope believes the overall planning, talent support and convenience of the FTZ will help the centre further promote innovation and development.

“The innovations emerging from this centre will enable the development of smart cities in which sensors can enable sustainable lifestyles, improve healthcare, limit pollution and make efficient use of energy,” Toope said.

Covering an area of nearly 40sq km, the Nanjing section of the Jiangsu pilot FTZ carries out institutional reforms to seek greater opening up of the economy. More than 20 preferential policies have been implemented in the past two months, helping the FTZ attract more than 1,000 new enterprises.

Thanks to these policies, Canadian firm Jiangsu Deying Training Service Co was successfully set up in Nanjing in only three weeks.

“As more Chinese citizens travel overseas, we have found the market for travel safety training is immense. Previously, foreign-owned enterprises were unable to conduct such training in Jiangsu, but the new policies of the FTZ offer us the opportunity,” said company official Shen Yangu.

Companies have high expectations for the new FTZs.

Wu Jian, general manager of Sinotrans Changjiang (Nanjing) Co, said the pilot FTZ in Jiangsu has helped the firm provide logistics services to more export-oriented businesses.

China’s FTZs have a proven track record in attracting foreign investment. In the first half of this year, the country’s initial 12 FTZs attracted foreign investment of nearly 70bil yuan (US$10bil), accounting for 14% of the country’s total, said Vice-Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen.

“With institutional advantages and better business environments, the FTZs are at the forefront in attracting foreign investment,” Wang said.

The new pilot FTZs located in Shandong, Jiangsu, Guangxi, Hebei, Yunnan and Heilongjiang are opening up the economy further.

The pilot FTZ of Shandong, for instance, took measures to nurture new businesses, develop the marine economy and explore China-Japan-South Korea economic cooperation.

Starting from Dec 1, China will carry out trial programmes separating operation permits from business licences in all pilot FTZs in a move to further expand market access. The procedures for approval of 442 items are expected to be streamlined.

“China is accelerating its opening up, which is a big cake that has great appeal for foreign firms,” said Han Jian, a professor from the Business School of Nanjing University.