China unveils plan for Hainan free trade zone

A coach teaches horseback riding at a field built on the roof of a mall in China’s southern Hainan province last year. Stocks with “Hainan” in their names soared Monday after an announcement that the province would become a free-trade zone. (AFP pic)

BEIJING: China on Tuesday granted the southern province of Hainan free trade zone (FTZ) status, vowing to significantly ease restrictions on foreign investment on the island in sector from agriculture to medical services.

Known for its sandy beaches and resort-lined coast, Hainan is the headquarters of China’s aviation-to-financial services conglomerate HNA.

President Xi Jinping first said in April China would set up a free-trade pilot zone and build an international free trade port in Hainan.

Spanning 35,400 square kilometres, the Hainan FTZ would be much bigger than China’s eleven existing FTZs, which are only 120 square kilometres each, Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen told a news conference.

Its size “reflects China’s determination and confidence to further open up to the outside world”, Wang said, adding about 40% of the measures introduced would be unique to Hainan.

The Hainan FTZ would seek to increase “openness” in sectors including seed production, tourism, medical care, aviation, and new energy vehicle manufacturing, aiming to “significantly relax the access to foreign capitals”, according to a notice released by the state cabinet on the government’s official website.

The cabinet did not mention gambling or casinos in its notice.

The government aims to make “significant progress” in the development of the plan by 2020, despite challenges facing the region such a shortage in talent, said Hainan vice governor Shen Danyang.