regional cooperation

Guangdong governor talks up free-trade zone with Hong Kong and Macau

Beijing backs plan for pilot free-trade zone that would encompass Qianhai, Hengqin and Nansha

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 April, 2014, 11:43pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 April, 2014, 3:51pm

A proposal to create a free-trade pilot zone encompassing Hong Kong, Macau and parts of Guangdong had got the backing of Beijing, the province's governor, Zhu Xiaodan, said yesterday.

"We hope [the proposed free-trade pilot zone] would take from Shanghai's free-trade zone," Zhu said. Without offering an exact timetable for realising the proposed zone, he said: "I hope we don't have to wait until the end of the year."

Like the Shanghai zone, it would be a place to test new regulatory approaches, public policy or economic policy programmes as well as facilitating trade and business transactions.

The province had received positive feedback from the top leadership and government departments after it submitted draft plans, Zhu said on the sidelines of a meeting on intellectual property, held in Guangzhou.

The proposal would be finalised and submitted to the State Council as soon as possible, he said. Zhu added that the zone would aim to make life easy for investors and residents, so they could "live life as conveniently as in Hong Kong".

Unlike Shanghai's free-trade zone, which has an international focus, Zhu said Guangdong's would focus solely on the Pearl River Delta area and was intended to transform and upgrade the region's economy from low-end manufacturing to high-end industries.

Zhu said in September the zone would take advantage of Hong Kong's position as a financial hub to boost regional growth.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said at the time he was looking into the plan. Guangdong party chief Hu Chunhua raised the idea of a free-trade zone connecting the development zones of Qianhai, Hengqin and Nansha with the two special administrative regions last year.

If approved, it would cover an area of more than 1,000 square kilometres. The Shanghai free-trade zone, initiated in September, is 29 square kilometres in area. Tianjin and Xiamen are considering setting up similar zones.

During yesterday's meeting, Zhu stressed the importance of the protection of intellectual property to the development of the province's economy.

He said Guangdong urgently needed to develop hi-tech industries.