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China's free trade zone fever spawns more regional hopefuls
2015-March-16 Source: Xinhuanet.com
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Regional delegates to China's annual parliamentary session are pushing to have their jurisdictions included into the country's next batch of free trade zones after three new zones were approved in December.

The fever to win central government's approval to upgrade existing development areas or set up new FTZs from scratch has been evident during the annual parliamentary sessions, which closes on Sunday.

One proposal came from Zhang Qingjun, mayor of Hefei, capital of east China's Anhui Province, who envisions a free trade zone connecting three other provincial capitals along the Yangzte River.

The rationale behind the proposed free trade zone, according to Zhang, is that the four cities situated along the middle of the Yangtze River face similar development challenges and all aspire to attract more foreign investment.

An inter-provincial free trade zone will also help break jurisdictional barriers for China's central provinces, a move that Zhang says will create a unified market where capital and goods can move with less restrictions.

East China's Shandong Province also wants to have a FTZ in the coastal city Qingdao, provincial governor Guo Shuqing, also former head of China's securities watchdog, told Xinhua on the sidelines of the National People's Congress.

In September 2013, four bonded areas in Shanghai, the country's financial hub, were bundled together into a free trade zone that authorities billed as a testing ground for financial liberalization, allowing greater foreign participation into the country's service sector.

The move to set up FTZs is part of China's effort to allow market forces to play a decisive role in the economy through greater opening to foreign investments into industries and removing restrictions over capital flows.

Yet the FTZ immediately became a coveted notion for local governments looking for a renewed engine to drive economic growth and respond to the central government's reform rhetoric.

Even before the Shanghai project was officially launched, word spread that southern Guangdong province and the coastal municipality Tianjin were also being considered for the initiatives.

By the end of 2014, Tianjin, eastern Fujian province and Guangdong were selected to be part of the second batch of free trade zones, inheriting practices already proved successful in Shanghai and tapping their unique geographical and industrial advantages for further experiments.

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Editor: Olivia
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