The city hopes a pilot plan will gain approval from the central government
Foreign students discuss doing business in Yiwu, Zhejiang province. The city is applying to get more central government support to strengthen its status as a world-renowned small commodity hub. [Photo / China Daily]
BEIJING - China's State Council may soon approve a pilot program for a comprehensive reform of international trade in Yiwu city in Zhejiang province.
The city, which is the world's biggest hub for small-scale manufactured goods, is attempting to better facilitate its foreign trade, a move which could even have positive repercussions for China as a whole.
"Yiwu's development has been largely hampered by current policies and a breakthrough is urgently required to help the city expand further," said Zhou Xiaoguang, a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC), who proposed the pilot program in 2009.
"The application has been submitted to the State Council, which may give the nod very soon," a source close to the matter said on Monday.
Zhao Hongzhu, secretary of the Zhejiang Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China, has also previously stressed the importance of the plan and has called for the program to be approved during the ongoing session of the NPC.
"The pilot scheme is a comprehensive project that will include policies related to finance, land, taxes, and customs," said Zhou, who is also chairman of the Yiwu-based garment manufacturer, Neoglory Group.
There are more than 2,600 foreign representative offices in Yiwu, and more than 20,000 foreign business people are based there. The city's rapid foreign trade expansion has now created a growth bottleneck.
According to figures from the local government, the city's foreign trade in 2010 totaled $3.12 billion. Exports accounted for 92 percent, valued at $2.86 billion, with growth of 34.1 percent year-on-year. The European Union, the United States, and Japan accounted for 42.1 percent of the total export volume.
The key focus of the initial program is to facilitate the export of small-scale commodities, with the aim of developing the city into an influential international trading center for those goods, according to China News Service reports.
Within three to five years, the city plans to establish a "green" channel for international trade to accelerate customs clearance.
Meanwhile Yiwu's port aims to reach 5 million twenty-feet equivalent units of container throughput, and have a foreign trade volume worth $100 billion in five to ten years, the report said.
"The program will unify all the related departments that include the State Administration of Foreign Exchange to study concrete policies," said the source, who declined to be named.
Yiwu, 350 km from port of Shanghai, the word's busiest in terms of container throughput, has partnerships with cities in emerging markets such as the United Arab Emirates, Chile, and Panama.
"Most of the manufacturers in the city are undergoing a transformation of their industries and are expanding their presence overseas. Therefore issues such as foreign trade settlement would affect our business a lot.
We hope the pilot program will help Yiwu's exporters with more preferential policies to help bolster business," said Zhou from the Neoglory Group.