Seven new free trade zones will open in China on April 1, bringing the total across the country to 11.
The State Council has approved the seven new zones in the provinces of Liaoning, Zhejiang, Henan, Hubei, Sichuan and Shaanxi as well as Chongqing Municipality, according to an official statement released Friday.
The decision carries strategic importance in terms of opening up and reform, cutting bureaucratic red tape and exploring financial innovation, according to the statement.
The government hopes the zones will play a pioneering role, replicating the success of previous trial. The free trade zones should help promote the nation's key regional and inter-regional development strategies such as the Yangtze River economic belt development plan and the Belt and Road Initiative.
The expansion comes nearly four years after China's launched its first free trade zone in Shanghai to test a broad range of economic reforms, including increased openness to foreign investment and fewer restrictions on capital flows.
In late 2014, Tianjin, Fujian and Guangdong were approved to set up the second group of free trade zones.
The first two sets of zones successfully introduced a “negative list,” which specified the investment sectors off-limits to foreign investors and allowed industries not on the list to follow the same new investment rules as domestic firms.