China's liberalisation of the transport and logistic business has prompted Swiss freight forwarder Kuehne + Nagel to open seven mainland offices over the next 18 months, accelerating competition in the market. Apart from enhancing its coastal presence, the company is also eyeing business opportunities inland, setting up offices in Wuhan, Chengdu, Chongqing and Xian. 'Manufacturing industry is moving towards the inland area of China. The trend is very clear,' said Andy Weber, Kuehne + Nagel's managing director (Asia Pacific). 'We decided to follow our clients.' The company will also set up in Wuxi in Jiangsu province, and in Dongguan, Guangdong. Under the closer economic partnership arrangement, international freight forwarders can set up wholly owned subsidiaries in the mainland through their Hong Kong-based operations, allowing them easier access to the rapidly growing logistics market. Kuehne + Nagel received approval in March to turn its representative office in Shanghai into an operating branch, allowing it to offer full services to clients without going through mainland agents. 'We have started to operate two warehouses in Shanghai. And we will continue to open more warehouses along the coast to Dalian, Beijing and the Pearl River Delta,' he said, when direct foreign control is permitted after next year. Mainland-based freight forwarder and logistics provider Sinotrans said last week at its interim results it had been under pressure from increasing competition. Profit margins at its core freight forwarding business fell to 2.16 per cent in the first half from 3.25 per cent during the same period last year. Mr Weber said the mainland was 'big enough for everybody'.