Shanghai free-trade zone launched

Sign reading "China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone"
Image caption The sign reads "China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone"

A free-trade zone in Shanghai, China's economic hub, has been launched as the world's second-biggest economy prepares to test long-awaited economic reforms.

Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng attended the opening ceremony for the zone, which covers 29 sq km (11 sq miles).

Mr Gao said the zone would help "implement a more active opening-up strategy".

Restrictions on foreign investment will be eased inside the area and interest rates will be set by markets.

Among other measures to be trialled inside the zone are allowing China's heavily-regulated currency, the yuan, to be swapped freely for other currencies, China's State Council said on Friday.

Eighteen sectors, ranging from finance to shipping, will have regulations loosened in the zone.


The new zone is being seen as the most important attempt at reform since Communist leader Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China's transformation to a market economy, designated Shenzhen on the border with Hong Kong a special economic zone in 1980.

"The establishment of the Shanghai free-trade zone is a significant move for China to conform to new trends in the global economy and trade," Mr Gao said.

The new zone "shows that the new government is keen on making reforms", said Stefan Sack of the European Chamber of Commerce in China but he added that "a free-trade zone in Shanghai alone will not change how business is done in China".

The new Shanghai zone, which includes four existing bonded zones, has been backed by Prime Minister Li Keqiang, who took office in March.

China's economy expanded 7.7% last year, its slowest pace in 13 years.

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