To prepare China for final-stage World Trade Organization (WTO) status by 2005, the Chinese mainland should first set up a "free trade zone" with Hong Kong, a National People's Congress deputy has suggested.
While China is expected to be accepted into the WTO this year, full implementation of the trade organization's rules are spread over a five-year period.
Such an arrangement would help the mainland answer the challenge of colossal international competition due to its WTO entry and also benefit Hong Kong, said Maria Tam.
She said China's WTO entry will swell its total volume of imports and exports, along with trade via Hong Kong.
Besides multinational companies, more medium and small foreign firms are expected to enter China's potential market in the expected future, thus requiring more intermediate services such as accounting and consulting from Hong Kong, Tam noted.
Tam's point was supported by deputy Chen Wanzhi, a professor from Chongqing University.
Chen even advised mapping out a larger free economic circle including Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan as well as the provinces of Guangdong and Fujian.
"Such a circle will be helpful for the mainland to learn advanced techniques from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan," Chen said.
As a key international finance center, Hong Kong is expected to play an increasingly important role in raising funds for mainland firms.
According to Chen, Hong Kong will be capable of providing talent in such areas as finance, accounting, consulting, law service and venture management, urgently needed by the mainland.
Chen also suggested that cities in western China, an area targeted for development, learn municipal management and other experiences from Hong Kong.
(China Daily March 15, 2000)