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Jinan issues invitation to exciting trade future

A provincial-level working office for the Shandong FTZ, as well as the three branches in Jinan, Qingdao and Yantai, is unveiled. The officially launch took place on Aug 30. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Jinan city's Mayor Sun Shutao issued a direct and exciting invitation at a dialogue with world famous enterprises on Sept 11, to explore new horizons in the metropolis' free trade zone.

"Companies from home and abroad are welcome to join in the development of Jinan, especially in the construction of the pilot free trade zone, to innovate and try and grow together with the city based on their respective advantages in scientific research, capital, talent, brands and management," he said.

Jinan, capital city of eastern Shandong province, has been extending its opening up to the outside world and encouraging companies to conduct international business by seizing the opportunities brought about by the establishment of the Jinan area of China (Shandong) Pilot Free Trade Zone.

Early in August, approval was given for the founding of the pilot zone, marking the formation of an open coordinated development platform which consists of a pilot free trade zone, comprehensive bonded zone and several provincial-level development zones.

To date, the Jinan area of the Shandong FTZ has attracted projects with investment of 25.3 billion yuan ($3.58 billion), 36 fund companies with management funds of 140 billion yuan and 10 banks with credit of 20 billion yuan, according to a news conference held in the city on Aug 31.

"These are just part of the many projects attracted to the Jinan area of Shandong FTZ," Zheng Deyan, vice-mayor of Jinan, told the news conference.

"More policies and regulations beneficial to economic and trade development will be enacted during the development of the area," said Zheng.

Covering 37.99 square kilometers, the Jinan area will focus on the development of artificial intelligence, industrial finance, medical care, culture and information technology. It will carry out comprehensive trials on a new open economy system, as well as build Jinan into an important regional economic center, logistics center and science and technology innovation center in China.

To attract more global investors and facilitate overseas business, the Jinan area will create a sound business environment with international competitiveness, Zheng added.

A group of overseas media journalists visit a factory at Jier Machine-Tool Group in Jinan city, Sept 10. [Photo/chinadaily.com.cn]

Long Yongtu, China's former vice-minister of foreign trade and economic cooperation and chief representative of the World Trade Organization accession negotiations, gave his suggestions on improving Jinan's business environment.

"I hope that Jinan will be more targeted in improving its business environment and listen to the specific proposals and practices of companies, including foreign-invested and local private enterprises, for business environment optimization," he said.

Long added that he believed that the business environment was not a big and abstract concept but was, in fact, made up of thousands of specific problems and difficulties in investment, trade and industrial development.

If these problems were solved, the city's business environment would obviously be enhanced, thus necessitating the implementation of specific actions and measures.

Mayor Sun Shutao echoed Long's emphasis on the company's role in creating a sound business environment and in increasing the levels of opening-up.

"Jinan will next open wider to investment, finance, education and the medical fields and allow more wholly foreign-owned or foreign-funded enterprises to operate or invest in more fields so as to provide a more open and inclusive market for companies," Sun said.

As concrete proof, 53 medical groups from home and abroad have been attracted to register with the local Jinan International Center for Medical Sciences -- where foreign-invested or funded medical groups and companies are admitted to operate. More foreign-invested hospitals are also expected to have market access in the center, officials said.

A group of overseas media visits Jinan International Center for Medical Sciences in Jinan city, on Sept 11. [Photo/chinadaily.com.cn]

Officials added that in fact many local companies in Jinan – including China National Heavy Duty Truck Group (Sinotruk) and Jier Machine-Tool Group -- have been making practical moves and providing a vivid demonstration of the benefits of promoting free trade, strengthening the opening up and expanding international cooperation.

Sinotruk, founded in 1956, introduced the Austrian Steyr heavy-duty vehicle project in 1983, becoming the first local company to bring foreign heavy-duty vehicle manufacturing technology to China.

The company has since been building a global network of distribution, service and accessories with nine overseas factories and equipment part storehouses built in 12 countries or regions covering Asia, Africa, Latin America and South America.

It has expanded in trade and production capacity in collaboration with countries along the Belt and Road, with its products now exported to over 110 countries and regions.

Experts from those B&R countries are bullish about the future.

"There are more opportunities for exports and imports to Asia," said Monthian Xayasith, deputy editor-in-chief of the Champamai Newspaper in Laos.

"Now the Laotian and Chinese governments have begun to build a railway, many trucks from China (Sinotruk) will be transported to Laos," added the newspaperman, expressing confidence and high expectations about the future partnerships between Sinotruk and his country's companies.

Sinotruk, too, is confident about the future.

A foreign visitor takes the steering wheel of a heavy-duty truck at China National Heavy Duty Truck Group in Jinan city, on Sept 10. [Photo/chinadaily.com.cn]

Zhang Yanling, deputy director of Sinotruk International Department, said that when it comes to his company's international plans, the 65 countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative such as Mongolia, Pakistan and Russia would be prime target markets to explore.

Business commentators say that while digging deep to mine the opportunities for foreign cooperation, Jinan companies have also continued to pursue independent innovation and participated in friendly international competition, to enhance the influence of Jinan's brands.

Jier Machine-Tool Group, known as one of the three major numerical control press equipment manufacturers in the world, provides products widely used in key sectors -- such as the auto, aerospace, energy, rail transit and shipbuilding industries -- with its exports covering more than 60 countries and regions.

Relying on the development of independent intellectual property rights, the group has in recent years provided turnkey projects for overseas vehicle manufacturers in North America and Southeast Asia, winning recognition from German, American, Japanese and French automakers.

Zhang Shishun, general manager of Jier Machine-Tool Group, said that the company had won orders for large press lines from Nissan North America, Nissan Kyushu and French Peugeot Citroen and has carried out 24 projects in 13 countries, highlighting its global influence as a Chinese and Jinan manufacturing brand.

Currently, Jinan has had economic and commercial exchanges with some 190 countries and regions. Over 1,000 foreign-invested companies have operated in the city, which has drawn investment from 129 Fortune Global 500 companies.

Last year, the Jinan's total import and exports were worth 93.6 billion yuan and foreign investment totaled 17.89 billion yuan.

Officials said that in the future, Jinan will speed up the construction of an open economic system and continue to deepen cooperation in various fields with more companies, as well as build the Jinan area of the China (Shandong) Pilot Free Trade Zone into a new pathfinder for China's opening up.

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