BEIJING, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- China has pledged more efforts to develop pilot free trade zones (FTZs), dubbed as the pioneer of its reform and opening-up, as part of a broader national strategy to further integrate into the world economy.
Pilot FTZs will be granted more power to reform and further open up, according to a recent meeting of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee for deepening overall reform.
China will strengthen policy support for those areas and encourage them to look for ways to improve the environment for investment and trade, prompt fintech to better serve the real economy and innovate in the management of human resources, said a statement of the meeting.
Policymakers at the meeting hope the pilot FTZs can play a better exemplary role in the country's new round of opening to the rest of the world.
China started to launch the pilot free trade zone in 2013 in the financial hub Shanghai as a means to test new ways of managing foreign investment, trade facilitation and transformation of government functions to better integrate the economy with international practices.
Since then, new measures to smooth trade and investment kept coming out, and more areas were added.
For instance, China in June unveiled a new negative list for foreign investment in the FTZs, with the number of items down to 45 from 95 in the previous version, under which businesses from outside of China started to gain wider access to sectors including agriculture and mining.
There are now 11 pilot FTZs in areas ranging from coast to inland. In addition, the central authorities have decided to support the building of a pilot FTZ in the whole of south China's Hainan island, which will then gradually become a free trade port.
Trade and investment boomed in such regions.
The Shanghai pilot FTZ saw its 2017 trade volume reach 1.35 trillion yuan (nearly 80 billion U.S. dollars), up over 14 percent year on year, accounting for about 42 percent of Shanghai's total trade volume.
Successful experience gained in those areas becomes even more precious -- 127 items of improvement in trade facilitation, government regulation and other fields from Shanghai pilot FTZ were promoted nationwide over the past years.
"These practices are developed locally but can serve the whole country and spread the benefits of reform and opening-up," said Assistant Commerce Minister Ren Hongbin.
The strengthened support for FTZs came amid the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening-up.
Despite rising anti-globalization sentiment, Chinese has decided to forge ahead with the opening drive and promised more concrete measures from cutting tariffs to allowing easier foreign investment in more industries.
Under the circumstances, the FTZs were attached greater significance in expanding the forefront of economic cooperation between China and the world.
Bai Ming of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation said it is proof that China is still committed to opening up.
"The FTZs will increase access to the Chinese market and substantially improve the business environment for foreign companies," said Bai. "This demonstrates a commitment to free trade and investment despite rising protectionism in other parts of the world."
From its establishment to June this year, the Shanghai FTZ saw the proportion of foreign-funded companies rise from 5 percent to 20 percent, with more than 10,000 foreign-funded companies registered and 23 billion U.S. dollars of investment. Trade also steadied, which allowed Shanghai to maintain the position as the world's largest container port for eight consecutive years.
With FTZs in places like Henan and Sichuan under construction, China's inland regions will also get a boost in opening-up and embrace more foreign businesses.
Analysts believe more favorable policies for the FTZs are in the pipeline to help steady progress in the country's opening-up and create more opportunities for win-win cooperation with the rest of the world.