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Pilot free trade zones are pacesetters of reform and opening up. What achievements have they made in foreign trade and investment the first quarter? What role do they play in stabilizing foreign trade and investment?(2023-05-11)

Developing pilot free trade zones is an important strategic measure by the CPC Central Committee to advance reform and opening up in the new era. PFTZs have fully leveraged advantages as the test ground. While putting into practice the policies and measures on stabilizing foreign trade and investment at central and local levels, PFTZs have also explored new ways to ensure stable growth in foreign trade and investment, created new growth drivers and contributed to stable development of China’s foreign trade and investment.

In the first quarter of this year, PFTZs registered rapid growth in foreign trade and investment. Import and export of 21 PFTZs reached RMB1.8 trillion, up 6.6% year-on-year, 1.8 percentage points higher than China’s total. In breakdown, export stood at RMB794.9 billion, up 8.5% and import RMB1036.3 billion, up 5.2%. Paid-in FDI in PFTZs rose to RMB71.9 billion, up by 22.1% year-on-year, 17.2 percentage points higher than China’s total. Import and export and actualized FDI of PFTZs accounted for 19.4% and 18.1% of the 21 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities).

PFTZs have driven growth in foreign trade and investment from four aspects.

First, empowering development through institutional innovation. PFTZs seek growth drivers from institutional innovation and keep pushing for trade and investment liberalization and facilitation. A combination of measures is increasingly at play. For instance, the PFTZ in Guangdong allows paperless declaration of RCEP certificate of origin and express parcels and perishable goods can cross the border within 6 hours. Zhejiang PFTZ is pushing forward institutional reforms including providing the same storage tanks for both bonded and non-bonded oil and gas products and adding multiple functions to export monitoring warehouses.

Second, focusing on key industries to promote development. The Pilot Free Trade Zones take targeted measures for the development of advantageous industries and effectively boost the development of export-oriented industries. For example, the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone has fully implemented the Global Operator Program, supporting headquarter enterprises in adding hybrid functions such as new ways of trade and fund management. Jiangsu Pilot Free Trade Zone has deployed and implemented more than 90 key R&D projects and 49 major projects on commercialization of scientific and technological advances, and more than 3,500 high- and new-tech enterprises have settled in the zone.

Third, providing targeted services to support development. The Pilot Free Trade Zones in many localities have launched a "white list" for foreign-invested enterprises and enterprises in foreign trade and established service records, and offered stronger support for production and operation services. The Tianjin Pilot Free Trade Zone explored measures to facilitate cross-border flow of talents and issued the catalogue for the first group of overseas vocational qualifications. Liaoning introduced 22 financial measures to support the high-quality development of the Pilot Free Trade Zone. The Beijing Pilot Free Trade Zone has expanded the coverage of export credit insurance to protect small enterprises on foreign trade.

Fourth, keeping the development of services for logistics channels unimpeded. The Pilot Free Trade Zones actively expand the reach of international logistics, innovatively facilitate logistics, transportation and customs clearance, and serves the development of export-oriented economy. Shanghai, Anhui and other Pilot Free Trade Zones jointly launched the "Integrated Reform of Special Goods Inspection in Yangtze River Delta Customs", and the time for cross-border trade clearance was significantly reduced. Yunnan, Sichuan, Shaanxi, Guangxi, Hunan, Chongqing and other pilot free trade zones cooperate with local railway bureaus to promote the "single document system" of multimodal transport between China and Laos, and promote the smooth flow of domestic and international logistics.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the development of the Pilot Free Trade Zones. The Ministry of Commerce will hold a series of activities to help domestic and foreign enterprises better understand the innovative measures of the Pilot Free Trade Zones and jointly seize new opportunities for development. Thank you.