On August 31, 2016, the Ministry of Commerce officially announced the establishment of seven new pilot free trade zones (“FTZs”), bringing the total number to eleven FTZs in China:
- The Liaoning Province FTZ, in northeast China, will focus on reforming the economic system to transform and open old industries and make them more competitive.
- The Zhejiang Province FTZ, south of Shanghai, will establish a free-trade port to promote the global distribution of bulk commodities.
- The Henan Province FTZ, in central China, will use its strategic location to focus on becoming a modern complex traffic hub for transportation and a logistics system.
- The Hubei Province FTZ will focus on attracting industries relocated from coastal provinces and build strategic new industries and high-tech industry bases to promote the development of an economic belt along the Yangtze River.
- The Chongqing Municipality, Sichuan Province and Shaanxi Province FTZs will focus on developing western China and the “One Belt One Road” project.
China’s FTZs are renowned for testing pilot reforms, as illustrated by the recent replacement of approval and examination procedures with record-filing procedures for FIEs nationwide. Along the same lines, on August 24, 2016, during the press release of the 19th China International Investment & Trade Fair, the Ministry of Commerce confirmed that further measures will be introduced soon to accelerate reforms on the administration of foreign investment (extending nationwide the negative list currently implemented in the FTZs and reviewing the Catalogue of Priority Industries for Foreign Investment in the Central and Western Regions to help foreign investors relocate processing trades to these areas, and liberalizing the education, culture and finance sectors).