Hainan projected to be new gateway for China-Asean trade
BEIJING — Hainan’s transformation into a free-trade port will open new doors for trade between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, South China Morning Post reported Tuesday.
Located at the southernmost tip of China, the free-trade port is well placed to strengthen ties with Asean, which collectively overtook the European Union to become China’s biggest trade partner in 2020, the newspaper said.
Asean companies will be incentivized to invest in Hainan, especially in the service sector, thanks to the easing of restrictions and tax breaks, said Shen Danyang, executive vice-governor of Hainan province, at the Boao Forum last week.
Travel between Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand used to be popular route for Chinese tourists. Hainan, which is an international tourism island and duty-free hub, could be a part of the itinerary in the future, Shen added.
“Chinese tourists could come to Hainan before going to places such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Singapore, and shop duty-free products that could be directly delivered back home.” Tourists from Southeast Asian countries could also be inclined to visit Hainan before touring Chinese mainland, said Shen.
“This will expand the scale of bilateral tourism and provide opportunities for education and employment collaborations,” Shen said, adding the province will soon allow skilled foreign workers to be employed depending on market needs.
In June 2020, China unveiled a master plan to build the island province of Hainan into a free-trade port with Chinese characteristics and global influence by the middle of the century. The free-trade port is set to introduce islandwide customs clearance operations by 2025.
Hainan needs to find its place in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership framework, which is the world’s largest free trade agreement, the newspaper said, quoting Bert Hofman, director of the East Asian Institute at National University of Singapore and former World Bank country director for China.
RCEP involves about 15 countries and covers nearly a third of the global population and about 30 percent of its global gross domestic product.
Though Hainan can learn from Singapore when creating a free trade port, there is a big difference – one is a country, the other a province, Hofman said at the Boao Forum last week. “Hainan needs to find its place in the system, this is the key,” he said.