China approves 7 new free trade zones in bid to open economy

An employee at an electronic products factory in Huzhou in Zhejiang province.
An employee at an electronic products factory in Huzhou in Zhejiang province.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China's State Council, the country's Cabinet, has approved the establishment of seven new free trade zones to prepare for further opening up of its economy, the commerce ministry said on Friday (March 31).

The new free trade zones (FTZs) will be in Liaoning, Zhejiang, Henan, Hubei, Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces, as well as Chongqing municipality, a document issued in Beijing showed.

"We are building free trade zones with the aim of creating reform experiences that can be replicated throughout the country and conducting risk testing for openness throughout the country," vice-commerce minister Wang Shouwen told a news conference.

Chinese leaders have pledged to open the world's second-largest economy wider to foreign investors.

The latest approvals brought the total number of Chinese free trade zones to 11.

China set up its first FTZ in Shanghai in 2013, and opened them in Guangdong, Fujian and Tianjin in 2014.

The new FTZs will learn from the reform experiences in Shanghai and other existing zones, but will have different priorities, Wang said.

Zhejiang's FTZ will focus on international maritime services and international oil storage, while Liaoning will focus on deepening state firm reform, he said.

Chongqing's FTZ will aim to promote the development of China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative while Henan will focus on international logistics and transportation, he added.