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Hainan FTP policies highlight efforts to open up

Yuan Shenggao
Updated: Apr 20,2021 09:53 AM    China Daily

Massive growth opportunities for global stakeholders are within reach in South China's Hainan Free Trade Port, as the country's government has revealed packages of preferential policies over the past 10 days, according to officials and experts.

Another set of policies is expected in the near future to further facilitate free trade and investment while improving market access for foreign investors.

Cong Liang, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, said during an April 12 news conference held in Beijing that more than 110 policy documents have been published to promote the smooth launch of the Hainan FTP's construction during the past three years. A free trade port policy and institutional framework has also been initially established.

Hainan FTP has welcomed the central government's support in broadening market access and further opening up its financial sector.

The central government launched a series of 22 special measures on April 8 to relax market access in the Hainan Free Trade Port, involving sectors such as medicine, healthcare, finance, education, high tech, culture and new energy vehicles.

Highlighting the government's ongoing efforts to expand its opening-up to the outside world, a document jointly released by the NDRC and the Ministry of Commerce said that China will allow the sale of prescription drugs over the internet. Authorities will also support the island in its development in the online gaming sector by exploring the delegation of approving online games to Hainan.

Officials plan to support the building of charging stations for new energy vehicles while pressing ahead with autonomous driving technologies.

On April 9, the central government released guidelines with 33 detailed measures, which aim to further facilitate free trade in Hainan, perfect its financial market system, further open up its financial market, enhance innovation, improve financial services and strengthen financial regulation.

Wang Shouwen, vice-minister of commerce, said the ministry together with another 19 departments will jointly reveal 28 special measures to promote the liberalization and assist trade in goods and services in the near future, in a move to boost high-quality free trade port growth in Hainan.

The coming measures will help break barriers on the import and export of crude oil, refined oil, sugar and other goods.

The measures will also cancel regulations for automatic import licenses as well as import licenses for mechanical and electrical products, and allow technology import and export businesses to leapfrog filing and registration hurdles for foreign trade operators.

The policies will also boost the secondhand car export business in Hainan and support the island province's development of new types of offshore international trade and digital, technological and cultural trade, enhancing the exhibition economy and innovating modes of international cooperation in service trade to help foster a new global or regional offshore international trade center and a regional international exhibition hub in Hainan FTP.

China has released a negative list for foreign investment in Hainan Free Trade Port, which became effective on Feb 1.

Xu Shanchang, head of the department for institutional reform at the NDRC, said the latest moves demonstrate China's resolve for reform and opening-up to global investors and consumers.

"The measures will develop Hainan into a benchmark for worldwide market access and create a highly attractive market environment," he said.

Chi Fulin, president of the Haikou-based China Institute for Reform and Development, said the latest supporting measures have sought to further strengthen weak areas in the development of the Hainan FTP, such as healthcare, education and the financial sector.

"The development of the Hainan Free Trade Port must use the world's highest opening-up standards as its benchmark and work toward a flagship that leads China's opening-up for the new era and as an important gateway to the world," he said.

Yu Tao, director of the Hainan free trade port research center of the South China Sea Research Institute, said the new measures make great breakthroughs and represent the CPC Central Committee's unprecedented support for Hainan's reform in the field of market access.

The new policies will help make Hainan a strategic highland for domestic and international "dual circulation".

"As important basic institutional arrangements by the central government, the new steps will certainly release huge policy dividends, strengthen confidence and expectations of domestic and overseas investors and accelerate the flow of international high-caliber resources to Hainan," he said.

Mark Wang, president and CEO of HSBC (China), said the supportive policies will activate Hainan's financial market and attract more international institutions and capital, providing capital support for the construction of various projects, including infrastructure projects in Hainan.

Continuing releases of favorable policies are driving a growing number of enterprises to start or expand their business in Hainan.

Hainan has held 14 consecutive centralized contract signing activities for key projects since 2018, with a total of 741 projects signed at an agreed investment of 519.6 billion yuan ($79.84 billion), according to data from the provincial government.

"The country will work out an action plan for the construction of those major projects, and set up a reserve system for major projects," said Cong, deputy head of NDRC.

"We have paid close attention to Hainan FTP's zero-tariff policy on shipments for a long time," said Wang Peng, vice-chairman of Guohang Ocean Shipping Group.

He said the company plans to spend between 4-5 billion yuan to launch 20 freighters in Hainan and set up a regional headquarters in Haikou, the provincial capital.

Wang said that he was most attracted by the two tax-free policies: the "zero tariff" policy for imports of vehicles and yachts, as well as the export tax rebate policy for domestic ships registered in "China Yangpu Port" and engaged in international transportation. "Both policies will save us a lot of costs," Wang said.

Justin Downes, deputy CEO of Extreme International from the United Kingdom, said the company will develop land-based extreme sports projects to supplement tourism products in Sanya, a coastal resort city at the southern tip of Hainan island where water sports is booming.

Opening-up policies are creating a wide range of opportunities and turning Hainan into a highland for foreign investment, experts said.

Official statistics show that 80 countries and regions made investments in Hainan last year, doubling the number from 2019.

A total of 1,005 overseas-funded enterprises were established, surging 197.3 percent over the previous year. The island province's actual use of foreign capital stood at $3.03 billion, marking the third consecutive year that the inflow of foreign investment has doubled from the previous year.

Experts say the favorable policies and the location of the Hainan FTP at a key intersection of domestic and international dual circulation will give the FTP strong new momentum for growth and will continue to attract domestic and foreign investment as it enjoys vigorous and high-quality development.