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July 27, 2021

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1st negative services list unveiled

CHINA yesterday released its first negative list for services trade, set to further improve the transparency and predictability of the business environment.

The list of cross-border service trade in the Hainan Free Trade Port specified 70 special management measures in 11 categories for overseas services providers, said China’s Ministry of Commerce in a statement.

For areas not included in the list, domestic and overseas services providers will have a level playing field and enjoy equal market access in the port, the statement added.

“The list gives investors a solid expectation of what services they may provide beyond the list. As a result, they may be more confident in China’s business environment, especially in Hainan,” said Liu Chunsheng, associate professor at the Central University of Finance and Economics

“The list serves as a major breakthrough in the management model of service trade,” Wang Shouwen, vice minister of commerce, told media at a press conference.

“It’s an institutional (market) opening arrangement that will help promote the liberalization of service trade and enhance China’s overall opening level,” he said.

The service industry, led by tourism, accounts for more than 60 percent of Hainan’s economy. The list was made in accordance with Hainan’s competitive edge, said Wang. For example, foreign yachts entering and leaving the FTP will no longer have to apply for pilotage.

The list also stresses the role of finance in serving the real economy, thereby spurring financial reform and innovation in an orderly manner, Wang said.

“It also gives a boost to further opening-up.

For instance, individual foreign investors are greenlighted to open securities and futures accounts and can apply for qualifications in securities and futures investment consultancy.”

The list will come into effect on August 26.

Except for 2020, the global service trade growth rate is twice the pace of goods trade for the last decade, said Wang.

“The development potential of service trade will be further released as technology develops, with cross-border service trade in particular as it is set to become a key driver behind global trade,” Wang said.

“There will be more business opportunities in Hainan for companies. On the other hand, Hainan may have more chances to provide cross-border trade in services,” said Chen Xi, director of the Hainan provincial department of commerce.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic shock, China’s service trade hit US$661.7 billion in 2020, ranking second in the world. However, Wang cautioned that the volume still lags far behind the crown trader.

Among the 160 service sectors categorized by the World Trade Organization, China has exceeded its opening-up promise on Hainan’s negative list in around three-quarters of the sectors, said Wang.

Why is China building the Hainan free trade port?

He said Hainan was chosen as the first to implement the negative list on service trade because it is China’s largest special economic zone and holds a favorable geographical edge.


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