The central region should embrace industries moving from developed coastal provinces but must limit excessive investment in energy- consuming sectors, Vice-Premier Wang Qishan said yesterday.
Rising costs and a shortage of labour are driving factories from affluent eastern regions to inland provinces.
Mr Wang said the central region, covering Henan, Anhui, Jiangxi, Shanxi, Hunan and Hubei, should welcome the industries because they would speed up development.
But he warned that the development should not come at the expense of the environment. Local governments should avoid energy-consuming businesses and wasting resources. Mr Wang was speaking at Expo Central in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, Minister of Commerce Chen Deming and governors from the six central provinces also attended the business summit.
Mr Wang said local governments in the central region should establish a fair market and improve the legal system to attract foreign investors.
'Governments should reduce intervention in microeconomic operations and relax administrative controls on enterprises,' he said.
He also called for more investment in infrastructure in the region to improve roads, railways and sea transport.
Mr Tsang said a good transport network, sufficient labour and energy supplies, and sustainable investment incentives were key prerequisites to drawing Hong Kong businesses to the region.
'They will take a wait-and-see attitude and will be reluctant to take the first step if any of these elements are absent,' he said.
Mr Tsang called for a longer grace period for Hong Kong businesses to adapt to tougher rules on doing business in the mainland.