Australia’s Westpac Banking Corporation said on Thursday it had opened a sub-branch in Shanghai’s free-trade zone. Shanghai’s pilot free trade-zone was announced last year with much fanfare surrounding a pledge to open many restricted areas of financial business to foreign banks within the zone. Progress, however, has been slow with a tepid response from foreign financial institutions. Westpac said expanding into the zone would “leverage the opportunities expected to come with China’s economic and financial market liberalisation”, although it did not elaborate on the immediate significance of the move. Last week, BNP Paribas announced the opening of a branch in the zone after opening a commodities trading operation there last year. The French bank said that opening in the zone would help seize opportunities that arise from ongoing reforms on the mainland, also without noting the specific benefits of being located there. Officials in Shanghai said late last year that the free-trade zone would be fully operational within three years, with the “negative list” of business sectors that foreign companies were barred from to be gradually trimmed.