China plans to introduce high-standard trade, financial, foreign currency and investment supervision systems as part of a free port within the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone to further compete with other major shipping hubs such as Singapore and Hong Kong, the Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday.[Special coverage]
Commerce Ministry Spokesman Gao Feng said the ministry is coordinating with the Shanghai municipal government and related administrations to plan the establishment of the free port based on successful experiences gained from the development of the Shanghai FTZ.
"It will not be a unique case, with the China (Zhejiang) Pilot FTZ also developing a plan for another free port within the Zhejiang FTZ to further liberalize trade in bulk commodities, in particular in crude and refined oil," Gao said.
Shanghai Party chief Han Zheng, newly elected to the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, said on the sidelines of the 19th CPC National Congress that setting up a free port within the Shanghai FTZ had entered the planning stage and needed a green light from the central government.
The free port is expected to be located within the Shanghai FTZ and will cover Waigaoqiao port, Shanghai Waigaoqiao bonded zone and Yangshan bonded port area.
To diversify the zone's earning ability, the central government approved a plan to comprehensively expand the opening-up of the FTZ in May, referred to as the "3.0 version" of the Shanghai FTZ, following its debut in 2013 and its first expansion plan two years ago.
"The world's major free trade centers, such as Dubai and New York, are all defining themselves as international free ports or global logistics centers because this practice is an effective way to drive regional growth in the trade, finance and service sectors," said Wu Wei, deputy director of the Shanghai Municipal Office for Port Services.
CPC Central Committee General Secretary Xi Jinping said China will break new ground in pursuing opening-up on all fronts. "We will adopt policies to promote high-standard liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment," Xi said in a report to the 19th CPC National Congress.
System innovation is the core task for the Shanghai FTZ after more than four years of development, said Li Guanghui, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation in Beijing.
"Breakthroughs in areas of trade facilitation measures, ship fuel prices, financial support, customs supervision, inspection and quarantine must be available for a free port within the FTZ," Li said.
China has seven of the world's 10 largest container ports by handling capacity. However, many container ships choose to fuel in Singapore due to the price gap and some other extra services.
The domestic bonded oil price in China is about higher per metric ton than in Singapore, according to Dong Liwan, a shipping industry professor at Shanghai Maritime University.
Nearly 18,000 firms have registered in the Shanghai FTZ since its opening four years ago, according to Shanghai customs authorities.