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China FTZs expand opening for foreign business

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-01-15 13:29
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SHANGHAI - A Sino-British joint venture will soon begin outbound tourism business for Chinese tourists in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (SFTZ).

Registered in the FTZ in 2015 by Thomas Cook Group and Shanghai's Fosun International, Fosun Tourism and Culture Group is one of the beneficiaries of fine-tuning to some laws and regulations in China's FTZs to further opening-up and reform.

Eleven regulations including those on ship registration, urban rail transit and foreign investment are to be temporarily adjusted, according to a State Council decision.

One regulation specifically deals with foreign investment in tourism. Joint ventures registered in the zones are now allowed directly into outbound tourism for Chinese residents. Previous regulations meant joint ventures had to work with local travel agencies on outbound tourism, but could apply for a their own license after two years.

Xu Bingbin, vice-president of the group, said his firm has various products for Chinese tourists, and since the change to regulations, revenue is expected to increase tenfold this year.

"The alteration of these laws and regulations will further the opening up of China's free trade zones," said Ren Yibiao, general manager of the National Base for International Culture Trade (Shanghai). The changes are also good for FTZ businesses involved in shipping, agriculture, aerospace and urban rail transit.

As of October 2017, nearly 18,000 firms were registered in the SFTZ, double the number in the four previous bonded zones when they merged in September 2013. In the first three quarters 2017, foreign trade in the zone rose 16.2 percent year-on-year to $150 billion.

The SFTZ was launched to trial streamlined business registration. Companies can register and be operational in the zone in three working days, considerably less than the previous 40.

In 2014, three more FTZs opened in Tianjin Municipality, and the provinces of Guangdong and Fujian. A third batch of seven more went online in August 2016.

As structural reform breeds innovation-driven growth, these zones have become attractive to investors and contributed to policy innovation and opening up in industry, finance and other sectors.

In January 2017, the central government announced more measures to attract foreign investment through easier access and a better business environment. Foreign firms already face fewer restrictions in the manufacturing, mining and services sectors.

"The trials in the FTZs set an example for economic reform and opening up nationwide," said Ren.

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