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China names six new 'free trade zones' amid U.S. trade war

By
Elizabeth Shim
Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) has led the creation of 18 free trade zones since assuming office. File Pool Photo by Li Xueren/UPI
Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) has led the creation of 18 free trade zones since assuming office. File Pool Photo by Li Xueren/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 26 (UPI) -- China has designated six new free trade zones amid an ongoing trade dispute with the United States.

In a move that signals China's willingness to expand upon the free flow of goods and investment, the Chinese government said Monday it is launching multiple "pilot free trade zones" in different parts of the country, Xinhua news agency reported.

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China's pro-trade policy comes at a time when it is increasing tariffs, including new taxes on $75 billion worth of U.S. goods. As Beijing retaliates against the Trump administration for multiple tariff hikes against Chinese imports, it is also signaling to other countries, including neighbors, it is open for business.

The free trade zones could stimulate growth in less industrialized parts of China, including Shandong, Jiangsu, Yunnan and Heilongjiang provinces. Heilongjiang is in northeast China not far from the North Korean border.

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The new free trade zones are to allow a wider range of foreign investment in the fields of finance, transportation, retail services and the culture sector. They are a signature project of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Under Xi, other regions were "liberalized," including Shanghai in 2013, followed by cities Tianjin, Chongqing and the provinces of Fujian, Guangdong, Henan and Hainan, an island. The six new trade zones bring the total to 18, according to Xinhua.

China's free trade zones are being used to connect to its neighbors. The planned zone in Heilongjiang will be used as a "base for cooperation" with Russia in the northeast, and transform the city of Harbin into a logistics center, the report says.

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Beijing has promoted the idea of a Eurasian economic network as part of its One Belt One Road initiative, which Xi launched in 2013.

The "New Silk Road Economic Belt" to connect Europe and Asia has lacked direction, however, according to analysis published by The Atlantic.

"Many One Belt One Road projects are wasteful and most are executed with minimal oversight from Beijing," the report says.

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U.S. President Donald Trump has said China is seeking renewed talks on trade despite ongoing tensions.

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