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Free trade zone moves to top of city projects list

By Wang Yanlin (Shanghai Daily)

13:15, July 14, 2013

Creating China's first free trade zone in Pudong New Area will top the city government's work agenda for the rest of the year, Shanghai Party Secretary Han Zheng said yesterday.

The zone will create growth opportunities for the city, said Han, speaking at fourth plenary meeting of the 10th Shanghai Municipal Congress of the Communist Party of China, which ended yesterday.

"The central government has allowed Shanghai to run this pilot program, making the city a pioneer in expanding the country's efforts on reform," Han said.

"Shanghai should continue to be a role model in accelerating reforms, and this program will be among the most important missions for the city in the second half of this year."

Green light

The State Council, China's cabinet, gave the green light on Shanghai's application to run a trial of China's first international free trade zone last month.

This is the latest step in a national strategy to open markets wider and build Shanghai into an international trade and finance hub.

In a free trade zone, goods can be imported, manufactured and re-exported without the intervention of customs.

Mayor Yang Xiong said at the meeting that the free trade zone should be built on intentional standards and become a testing ground for China's reform and opening-up efforts.

"We will focus on exploring mechanism innovations, not on giving preferential policies," said Yang.

"The top priority right now is to design a set of laws and rules to regulate the zone when it starts to operate."

Shanghai already has three areas designated as bonded trade or port zones. But the new area - formed from the existing three zones - is expected to be more far-reaching, with trials on free currency exchange, management innovation, trade-related financial services and other measures.

Pudong Governor Jiang Liang said the program will be a milestone in Shanghai's development and that the district will strive to make the most of this opportunity.

The program will sustain the city's economic growth when external conditions remain uncertain, participants at the meeting said.

Shanghai's gross domestic product is expected to grow 7.7 percent from a year earlier in the first six months, higher than last year's 7.5 percent rise, according to a government report.

The Consumer Price Index, the main gauge of inflation, may edge up 2.3 percent in the first half, under the government's 3.5 percent projection.

Also, the city created more than 347,000 new jobs during the January-June period, placing the unemployment rate under control.

Foreign direct investment attracted by the city added 12.5 percent in the period, the report said.

"Shanghai's economic performance has been stable in general this year, better than we'd expected," Yang said.

"For the second half, we will continue to improve growth quality, and back reform to accelerate development."

There is as yet no opening date for the free trade zone.

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