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HK should take FTZs seriously
2015-April-14 Source: Chinadaily.com.cn
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The front gate of the Qianhai & Shekou Area of Shenzhen of Guangdong FTZ. [Photo/Xinhua]

The world is talking about "One Belt, One Road" and the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), but perhaps they should also be paying more attention to another area of significant reform: free trade zones (FTZs).

After the 2013 launch of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, the Guangdong Free Trade Zone was launched last month. Also planned are two further FTZs in Fujian and Tianjin.

The central government says the new free trade zones will be based on Shanghai's FTZ model, which is being used as a testing ground for the liberalization of finance, investment and trade. The central government also says the new zones will include institutional innovations with their own "local characteristics".

The Guangdong FTZ covers 116 square kilometers and includes Guangzhou's Nansha New Area, Qianhai and Shekou in Shenzhen as well as Hengqin in Zhuhai. According to Zheng Jiarong, deputy head of the Guangdong provincial department of commerce, the Guangdong FTZ will "focus on pioneering new legal systems based on the opening-up policy". At the same time, the Guangdong provincial government will try to develop the FTZ to encourage collaboration with Hong Kong and Macao in areas such as international mediation and dispute resolution.

Some remain skeptical of the new FTZs, arguing that they have suspect legal systems. This is often said to be the reason for Hong Kong's competitiveness. But if things were that simple, Britain, from whom we inherited our legal system, would be the most competitive country in the world.

But what if the Guangdong Free Trade Zones adopt something resembling our system when they pioneer their "new legal systems"? If these new legal systems can enable Guangdong to work together with us on more things than previously thought, could this mean one day they may also do this alone without us?

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Editor: Chan
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