China will spearhead the application of negative list management systems for cross-border service trade in designated regions as part of the efforts to optimize its economy, commerce officials said on May 22.
Xian Guoyi, director-general of the Department of Trade in Service and Commercial Services at the Ministry of Commerce, said the negative list management system will largely boost the development and open up the country’s service industry.
He said the previous foreign investment negative list mainly dealt with the entry permit issue, while the service trade negative list addresses a wider range of issues including cross-border payment and consumption in overseas markets.
Data from the ministry showed China’s total foreign trade in services amounted to 5.24 trillion yuan ($758.2 billion) in 2018, up 11.5 percent year-on-year, making the nation the second largest country in service trade after the United States.
The country’s service trade reached 1.29 trillion yuan in the first quarter of 2019, up 2.6 percent year-on-year, while service exports topped 463.49 billion yuan, up by 10.3 percent.
From a long-term perspective, the negative list management system for cross-border service trade will help selected FTZs or areas, as well as their surrounding regions such as the Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta, to become a world-class urban area and a new growth pole of the modern global service trade, said Bai Ming, a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.
Trade in services refers to the sale and delivery of intangible products such as transportation, tourism, telecommunications, construction, advertising, computing and accounting.
Wang Bingnan, vice-minister of commerce, said China values highly the service industry and has embarked on an “unprecedented effort” to stimulate the development of the service sector, such as providing a number of policies on the subject in recent years.
For example, Shanghai explored new management modes of cross-border service trade and released a new negative list for cross-border service trade in October 2018, the first of its kind in China.
A total of 159 detailed regulations have been included in the new negative list which cover 31 sectors. The new list defined cross-border service trade as “commercial activities delivered by overseas service providers to consumers in the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone”.
“The ministry will work closely with other departments to create a premier environment for service trade, make it the new engine of the country’s foreign trade, and further power the country’s opening-up,” Wang added.
He said the country needs to innovate the development mode of service trade, including spearheading the development of digital service trade and promoting digital service outsourcing.
China to date has established trade in services with over 200 countries and regions across the world. Its trade in service volume with economies participating in the Belt and Road Initiative reached $121.7 billion in 2018, accounting for 15.4 percent of its total service trade.
Beijing will host the 2019 China International Fair for Trade in Services from May 28 to June 1. Launched in 2012 for the first time, the event is aimed at promoting the healthy growth of the sector, showcasing the host city and the country’s emphasis on services trade.