China plans a package of preferential policies to build Hainan province into a globally influential and high-quality free trade port, which will serve as a new growth engine for both the nation and the global economy, officials and experts said on Monday.
Lin Nianxiu, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, said at a news conference that the first phase of the government’s master plan is to be completed in 2025, with a key focus on liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment.
“We will make a big push to boost the free and efficient flow of various production factors and strive to make breakthroughs in around three years, which will lay a solid foundation for the islandwide special customs clearance operation,” Lin added.
The second phase will focus on further optimizing opening-up policies and institutional arrangements.
By 2035, high-level process supervision will be mostly built to achieve free trade and investment, free cross-border capital flows, free and convenient transportation and access for people, and safe and orderly flow of data, according to the mega plan for the Hainan Free Trade Port.
“Hainan needs to learn from the advanced experience of internationally renowned free trade ports such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai, converging with high-level economic and trade rules and building an open system with international competitiveness,” Lin said. “We will further cooperate with the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area to ensure long-term prosperity.”
He noted Hainan differs from Hong Kong in positioning and industry focus, indicating that complementarity outweighs competition. “We must give full play to its advantages in rich natural resources, unique geographical location and the vast hinterland, focusing on developing tourism, modern services and high-tech industries.”
Cui Weijie, director of the Institute of Industry Development and Strategy under the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said Hainan resembles many well-known international free trade ports in terms of their high level of openness.
“Considering China’s large economy and vast hinterland, Hainan needs to develop key industries, build an innovation-driven economy and pay more attention to ecological civilization construction, which will fuel high-quality growth of the entire nation and inject new impetus to global trade and economy.”
To further enable the free flow of trade and investment, Hainan will introduce measures that center on zero tariffs for the trade of goods in steps and phases.
“After the islandwide customs clearance operation in 2025, goods outside the imported taxable commodities catalog will be exempted from import duties,” Zou Jiayi, vice-minister of finance, said at the conference.
She said Hainan Free Trade Port will establish a zero-tariff negative list and three positive lists, with a key focus on supporting hightech, environmental protection and specialty industries.
In the next step, the province will give foreign investors greater access to the financial services field to help vitalize the economy.
Pan Gongsheng, vice-governor of the People’s Bank of China, said the government will encourage commercial banks and other financial institutions to develop capabilities suitable for an open economy and support global exchanges for energy, shipping and bulk commodities.
Zhang Yansheng, chief researcher at China Center for International Economic Exchanges, said Hainan needs to strengthen cooperation with the Greater Bay Area, the land-sea corridor in western China, neighboring Asian countries and countries and regions along the Belt and Road routes.