'Reflects active opening-up strategy'
Updated: 2013-09-30 01:50
By SHI JING (China Daily)
Foreign-owned company CEOs excited to join pilot initiative
The China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone was officially launched on Sunday at a ceremony presided over by Shanghai Party chief Han Zheng and Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng.
Guests at the event included representatives of the first 25 companies and 11 financial institutions that obtained business licenses to operate in the zone.
The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China opened a branch in the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone in Pudong district on Sunday. ICBC is one of 36 companies given licenses to operate in the zone, as are two foreign banks: Citibank of the United States and DBS Group from Singapore.Gao Erqiang / China Daily
Shanghai Mayor Yang Xiong said at the ceremony that the free trade zone will help expand financial reform and increase the country's opening-up.
Gao echoed Yang's sentiments, saying that the launch of the FTZ is in line with global economic development "and reflects a more active strategy of opening-up."
Detailed regulations for the FTZ were released at a news conference.
Among the first 25 companies obtaining business licenses to operate, eight are wholly foreign-owned enterprises. A joint venture between Microsoft and BesTV had the honor of getting registration number "001."
Nearly all the major domestic banks have joined the list, and two foreign banks, Citibank of the United States and DBS Group from Singapore, were the first foreign banks to register.
Ralph Haupter, chairman and CEO of Microsoft Greater China region, said the company is excited about the opportunity that the FTZ provides for the joint venture, which produces online games.
"We are very happy to see opportunities for innovation based on financial services and the service industry," he said. "Detailed sizes of the businesses are hard to predict now, but our businesses are continuously growing."
Haupter said that the FTZ will bring a lot of change to the mobile-games market, creating opportunities in the fast-growing Chinese market for both foreign and domestic developers.
"We are also expecting many international companies to come to China and localize their solutions and products for the Chinese market," he added.
Logistics company C. Steinweg-Handelsveem BV from the Netherlands is one of the first wholly foreign-owned enterprises setting up shop in the zone. Company CEO Ulf Boll said that his company's branch in the zone will operate as a distribution center for the Asia-Pacific region, bringing overseas goods into China and vice versa, allowing the company to expand its services.
The main products the company handles are industrial metals, including copper, aluminum, zinc, lead and tin.
"One of the main elements that will be useful for us is investment in China," he said.
"We have a number of investments all over China. This will ease the transfer of cash between the entities, allowing us to focus on investment within China more easily than before. The fact that we have this free trade zone allows our customers to trade more easily."
The company also has been providing chemical warehousing in Shanghai since 2006. It also provides warehousing services for so-called soft commodities such as coffee, tea and cocoa.
"The free trade zone will accelerate growth in China in general, for this is a facilitating element. It is providing growth by itself, but it helps the country go," he said.
Andrew Au, chairman and CEO of Citibank China Co Ltd, said the bank wants to bring all of Citibank's current running businesses in China into the zone. As one of the first foreign banks providing services to Chinese small and medium-sized enterprises, Citibank will continue to support SMEs in FTZ.
"Citibank is interested as well as capable of promoting the development of a foreign currency exchange, interest-rate reform, foreign trade financing and fund management in the free trade zone," Au said.