China : Accelerating the free trade zone strategy

Beijing – The Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Between China and ASEAN was signed in November 2002. It was China’s first free trade zone treaty that ushered in an FTZ era in the country. The CPC elevated free trade zone to a national strategy at its 17th National Congress in 2007, and decided to accelerate its execution at its 18th National Congress in 2012.

The Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee proposed carrying out the FTZ strategy at a faster pace with neighboring countries, and forming a global FTZ network of high standard.

When presiding over a collective study session of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee in December 2014, Xi Jinping reiterated the goal of building an FTZ network with neighboring countries as the basis that will also benefit the Belt and Road participants and serve the whole globe. In November 2015 the Central Steering Group for In-depth Reform reviewed and approved a document on accelerating the FTZ strategy at its 18th meeting, and set overall requirements, principles, tasks and goals, and layout for China’s FTZ construction, symbolizing the formation of China’s theory on FTZs.

The overall goal of China’s FTZ strategy is:

(1) accelerating the building of neighborhood FTZs with the aim of establishing FTZs with all neighboring countries, and improving economic and trade relations with the aim of building a huge market based on win-win cooperation;

(2) advancing the building of FTZs along the Belt and Road to create a huge market and turn the Belt and Road into a path to connectivity, commerce and trade, and openness;

(3) setting up a global FTZ network, with the aim of building FTZs with most emerging economies, major developing countries, major regional economic blocs and some developed countries, and building markets shared by the BRICS countries, emerging economies and developing countries. (