SCIO briefing on the progress of Hainan Free Trade Port policies

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Guangming Daily:

With regards to China's efforts in fostering a new development paradigm with domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other, what is the positioning of the Hainan FTP, and how will it play its role? Thank you.

Shen Xiaoming:

I will summarize the two questions. The first is regarding the positioning of the Hainan FTP within the new development paradigm, and the second involves how it will play the role. I will start by answering the first question.

We have positioned the Hainan FTP at the intersection between domestic and international circulations. If dual circulation is shaped like the figure "8," Hainan province is situated right at the point the two loops intersect. Some may ask why. There are three reasons: First, at an institutional level, after the island-wide customs clearance operation in 2025, it will become a special region for importing and exporting commodities. Second, at a policy level, the main policy aims to facilitate free trade and investment, and almost all its policies are made for fostering international investment and making free trade more convenient. Therefore, the policy puts Hainan at an intersection linking domestic and international circulations. Third, with its special geographical location, Hainan connects the world's two most vibrant markets — the Chinese mainland and Southeast Asia — making it a natural intersection of the "dual circulations." Based on these three reasons, I think Hainan's positioning is highly important and significant in China's new development paradigm.

As for how the Hainan FTP will play its role, our consideration is as follows: it will follow the most advanced international trading standards, and will make full use of its investment and trade facilitation policies to attract talents, resources and capital in the process of "dual circulation." We hope the convergence will go beyond the material level to cause a knock-on effect, with macro and long-term significance. For instance, in the current context, COVID-19 is still raging around the world, hindering the easy flow of people, goods and capital globally. However, we can seize the opportunity against such a background to boost consumption at home, mainly in the following three aspects: first, the pandemic has stopped many consumers who wanted to buy luxury and high-end goods abroad. We adjusted our offshore duty free rules in a timely manner under the support of such departments as the Ministry of Finance, the GACC, the State Administration of Taxation, as well as the NDRC. The total amount of offshore duty-free sales last year was double that in 2019, reaching 30 billion yuan, and we expect the amount to exceed 60 billion yuan this year. This is the first aspect we will work on: bringing consumption back from abroad.

Our second effort aims to bring medical services back from abroad. This refers to patients who intended to travel overseas for medical treatment but couldn't, like those with cancer, after receiving the first period of targeted therapy abroad, they couldn't continue with the second phase treatment overseas as the pandemic halted international travel. The Boao Hope City in Hainan stepped in. Here patients can legally access new foreign drugs in Hainan that cannot be found in the domestic market. This explains what bringing back medical services is.

Our third effort aims to provide quality educational resources. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, some Chinese students have been unable to go abroad to study and their parents are worried about their children in case another pandemic hits in the future. Can students access high-quality international or even top-quality educational resources? Overseas universities which boast large numbers of Chinese students are also seeking ways of mitigating against similar emergencies and hope to open branches in China. Hainan is targeted to become an island for international education innovation. Through the introduction of top education resources from abroad, the domestic need for quality education can be well addressed. At present, Harrow International School is now open in Haikou and will followed by others this fall in Lingshui Li'An International Education Innovation Pilot Zone, while a large number of other projects are also underway.

We have taken the initial steps in promoting bringing back consumption. Compared with the 1 trillion yuan overseas consumption on commodities, the 800,000 patients receiving treatment abroad, and the 800,000 Chinese students studying overseas, the proportion is not high. However, its future has received much attention from market players. What I said is only one example of how the Hainan FTP can play its role, and there are many more examples. Thank you.

Hong Kong Economic Herald:

My question is for Mr. Shen. I remember a previous report saying that in terms of building an international business environment, Hainan was inefficient in providing professional services, as it lacked professional service institutions. And, it was not very competitive in attracting foreign investment. What has changed? What shortcomings does Hainan need to address? And how much does Hainan need to do in order to achieve a more ideal business environment?

Shen Xiaoming:

Mr. Feng will answer this question.

Feng Fei:

Thank you for paying attention to Hainan's business environment. Mr. Shen just mentioned a very important point, which is that business environment, ecological environment, and policy environment should become the core competitiveness of Hainan. We will strive to combine these three environments to optimize Hainan's development environment. In General Secretary Xi Jinping's important speech on April 13, he urged Hainan to expedite plans to foster a law-based, international, and convenient business environment as well as a fair, open, unified, and efficient market environment. These are also the ways in which Hainan can strive to improve its business environment.

In the Master Plan for the Construction of the Hainan Free Trade Port, we clarified our development goals in different stages. By 2025, we will have built an overall first-rate business environment in China. By 2035, the business environment will be further improved. Over the past years, Hainan has made great efforts to improve its business environment and fostered many renowned, national brands. Particularly, we have paid attention to the integrated and systematic innovation. For example, we led the country in implementing reforms of combining different types of plans into a single plan within the province. We have also regulated the use of all territorial space in a unified way, reflecting the need for a single blueprint to lay out all projects, a single form for application materials, and a single system for approval and inspection services. These efforts effectively solved problems that previously arose from excessive planning and met the needs for land, sea, and forest s of construction projects. For example, we promoted minimum approvals in key parks of Hainan Pilot Free Trade Zone, the replacement of project initiation approval with planning approval, and the replacement of single project assessment with regional assessment. We cut the number of approval items from 70 to four and the time needed for approval by over 80%. We also updated the single-window system for international trade, cutting the time needed for clearance to half the time needed three years ago. We continue to carry out innovative approaches for easier clearance such as "Internet + appointments", post-release duty payments, and consolidated duty collections. Additionally, the "release after inspection" model allows imported products to pass through clearance if they meet inspection requirements. Another example is the "one seal approval" model, which allows the transfer of around 300 administrative items in a centralized, unified way. Finally, companies and individuals can now access government services via a single office, without turning to multiple offices.

Generally speaking, Hainan has achieved great progress in improving its business environment. We can see from Mr. Shen's examples of market entities, companies, and foreign investment, that Hainan's favorable business environment is widely recognized by companies. Objectively speaking, there is still room for improvement when compared to the master plan, specifically concerning the requirements of creating a market-oriented, law-based, and internationalized business environment, and other developed provinces and cities in the country.

Therefore, we will ramp up efforts to further optimize the business environment in three aspects, which are as follows. First, we will set goals for guiding the reform of the business environment. For example, we proposed improvements to government services by letting people access them in any region within the province and complete the process without the need for a second trip. Second, we will make quantitative goals in line with the standards of the World Bank, making our annual work quantified and specified across cities and provinces. Third, we will build a mechanism for assessing the business environment that enables the market to play its decisive role and allows participation from all companies and customers.

Again, a law-based environment is the best business environment as well as the most stable and predictable. Mr. Shen just discussed how the Hainan Free Trade Port Law will be implemented. This year, we will accelerate the formulation of laws and regulations on fair competition, social credit, and business registration and deregistration. In the meantime, we will push forward the building of a law-based government in all respects and regulate activities between the government and market in a law-based manner and through law-based procedures and approaches, protecting the legitimate rights and interests of investors.

I also want to take the initiative to respond to the recent incident which happened in Sanya involving tourists who recently complained that the sea urchin steamed eggs that they ordered at a restaurant did not contain any sea urchins. The Hainan Provincial Committee of the CPC and the Hainan provincial government attach great importance to the order of the tourism market and over the years have taken a series of strict measures in three aspects, including changes to the supervision system, complaint mechanisms, and special campaigns. We will carry out a thorough investigation, address the matter in line with the law and respond to public concerns in a timely manner. Thank you.

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