[BEIJING] China will launch three new free-trade zones on Tuesday, official media said Monday, building on a project that began in Shanghai to much fanfare but has so far undershot expectations.
The free-trade zones (FTZs) will be opened in the southern province of Guangdong, the northern port of Tianjin and the eastern province of Fujian, reported the website of the People's Daily, the ruling Communist Party's mouthpiece.
Each will cover around 120 square kilometres (46 square miles), the State Council, China's cabinet, said.
China's first FTZ, set up in the commercial hub Shanghai in September 2013, will also be quadrupled in size, it said, bringing it up to a similar scale and likely to take in the financial centre of Lujiazui, along with a manufacturing area and a high-tech base.
When the Shanghai FTZ was launched it promised a range of financial reforms, including full convertibility of the yuan currency and free interest rates, but they remain unfulfilled.
All four zones are subject to the same "negative list" that bans or restricts foreign investment in 122 business areas, ranging from genetically modified seeds and rare earth mining to Internet news services and television broadcasters, a separate State Council statement showed.
Assistant commerce minister Wang Shouwen told reporters the list represented a reduction from the previous 139.
"Openness is improved greatly this time," he said.
The Guangdong FTZ aims to speed economic integration with neighbouring Hong Kong, the former British colony that is now a special administrative region of China, one of the releases said.
It will allow Hong Kong and Macau companies to issue yuan-denominated bonds in the mainland and explore ways for firms in the zone to sell yuan-denominated shares in Hong Kong, it said.
The Fujian zone is focused on Taiwan, which China considers part of its sovereign territory, and aims to become a "cooperation platform" for the "21st century maritime silk road" - an initiative backed by President Xi Jinping that seeks to secure trade routes, largely through economic diplomacy, another statement said.
Companies and individuals in the Fujian zone will be permitted to invest overseas directly "using their own financial assets", it added.
The Tianjin FTZ is part of a push to better integrate the city with nearby Beijing and Hebei province, according to the State Council.