The State Council released a plan on May 24, 2018, on further deepening reform and opening-up of the China (Fujian) Pilot Free Trade Zone (FTZ), which was established in 2014 as a test bed for reform and innovation.
According to the plan, Fujian FTZ is to promote reform and innovation in all areas, further enhance government management and services, introduce more replicable institutional innovations, deepen cross-Straits economic cooperation, and accelerate the construction of the core area of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
Twenty-one concrete measures were put forward to realize the above goals by 2020. They include further broadening the entry fields for foreign investment, creating a law-based and internationalized business environment, promoting the standardization and transparency of government services, establishing a "single-window system" for international trade, strengthening financial cooperation between Fujian and Taiwan, and building new cooperation and exchange platforms.
Promote reform and innovation in all areas
The FTZ is to further broaden the entry fields for foreign investment, promote the service sector, perfect the management system for the market-entry negative list, and establish a supervisory system suitable for the management system, and ensure all market entities have equal access to relevant fields in accordance with the law.
Measures to improve the level of international trade facilitation in the Fujian FTZ were also put forward in the plan. A verification system and a new supervision model will be established for the FTZ's international processing trade. The construction of a traceability system is also underway to ensure the quality of import and export products.
A law-based, fair and internationalized business environment will be created in the FTZ using international business environment evaluation indexes. These will apply to the process of starting a business, registering property rights, protecting investors, and taxation and bankruptcy liquidation.
The FTZ will further expand the opening-up of its financial sector and promote its innovations in financial supervision. The zone is to explore an account management system in accordance with its further reform and opening-up, establish a national fund management service platform focusing on project investment and financing, and perfect financial supervision and cross-border capital monitoring systems to prevent criminal activities.
An incentive mechanism to facilitate innovations will be set up in the FTZ. It will be made easier for foreign high-level talents to exit and enter China, work in China, and permanently reside in China. The intellectual property system will also be improved to stimulate innovations in the zone.
Further enhance government management and services
The plan also proposes measures to further enhance government management and services, such as simplifying administrative procedures and delegating powers to lower levels.
An online government affairs service platform will be built to integrate and share resources and data, and strengthen the connectivity between different government departments, as well as facilitate the operations of government affairs in areas such as enterprise registration, tax payments, and trademark copyright.
Introduce more replicable institutional innovations
The plan makes requests for the FTZ to make more replicable institutional innovations. The zone is to establish a "single-window system" for international trade, in which cross-border traders can submit regulatory documents only at one location.
Measures to promote the FTZ's innovations in service modes for the zone's industrial development are also put forward in the plan. It supports the construction of comprehensive pilot zones for cross-border e-commerce in Fuzhou and Xiamen, exhibition and trading platforms for the electromechanical equipment and wine sectors in Xiamen, a cross-border trading center in Pingtan, an internet of things industrial base in Fuzhou, and ports for finished automobile imports in Fuzhou and Xiamen.
Interactive development should be achieved among different regions and FTZs. The three parts of the FTZ (Pingtan, Xiamen and Fuzhou areas), Fuzhou-Xiamen-Quanzhou National Innovation Demonstration Zone and other economic and development zones need to strengthen mutual cooperation and exchanges, which can also promote the integrated development of Xiamen, Zhangzhou and Quanzhou.
Deepen cross-Straits economic cooperation
New cooperative mechanisms need to be formed to deepen cross-Straits industrial cooperation. The plan proposes that the FTZ should further expand opening-up to Taiwan in cultural, sport and education sectors, and deepen its cooperation in advanced manufacturing, modern services and finance industries. It also supports the establishment of a cross-Straits pilot zone for healthcare for the elderly.
New modes for Customs clearance between Fujian and Taiwan should be set up, including promoting exchanges of Customs clearance data through the "single-window system" for cross-Straits trade, perfecting the data exchange functions of the inspection and quarantine centers in Fujian and Taiwan, and setting standards for Taiwan sailors seeking a certificate to work on the Chinese mainland.
New platforms for innovation and entrepreneurship should be created to make it easier for Taiwan residents to live, work, study and start up business in Fujian FTZ.
New channels for cross-Straits communication and exchanges should be developed in Fujian FTZ. For Taiwan-funded construction projects in the FTZ, the plan suggests implementing the "one zone, two standards" policy, of which one standard takes the project management system in Taiwan as a reference point. The plan also supports building Pingtan into a common home for people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits, and conducting pilot projects in Pingtan, Xiamen and Fuzhou to allow Taiwan compatriots to take part in community governance.
Accelerate the construction of the core area of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road
The FTZ will further strengthen cooperation with countries and regions along the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The construction of the second stage of Fuzhou Changle International Airport and the new airport in Xiamen should be sped up to open more flights to other countries. A 15-day visa-free policy for inbound foreign tourist groups on cruises will be piloted in Fujian province.
The FTZ is expected to build new platforms for international cooperation. The plan encourages the zone to continue foreign aid and training, supports the China-ASEAN Seafood Exchange (a facility for promoting fishery cooperation, seafood trade and investment between Fuzhou and Southeast Asia) to set up a regional seafood spot trading center and branch centers in countries and regions along the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and also supports the construction of the China-ASEAN Industrial Cooperation Park in the FTZ.
The zone should create new cooperation modes between Fujian and BRI countries and regions, such as cooperation in Customs clearance and measurement standards, and communication and exchanges in the cultural sector. Measures need to be taken to attract more consulates or visa centers of countries and regions along the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road to settle in Fuzhou, as well as to promote the establishment of cooperative mechanism between BRICS countries.