Suzhou seeks to follow in Shanghai's FTZ footsteps
Last Updated: 2014-03-11 08:58 | China Daily
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Suzhou, the second-largest economy in the Yangtze River Delta region, hopes to become a regional financial hub like the newly launched China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone, the city's mayor said.

Suzhou, the largest economy in east China's Jiangsu province, has submitted a plan to the State Council to apply for a similar zone.

It is "very likely" to get approved, Zhou Naixiang, Suzhou mayor and also a deputy of National People's Congress, said on the sidelines of China's ongoing annual parliamentary session in Beijing.

Zhou's remarks came as representatives of cities both from near Shanghai and across China have voiced their eagerness to copy the Shanghai model during the national meeting.

The Shanghai free trade zone opened in September to test a broad range of economic reforms, especially in the financial sector.

Besides strengthening a traditionally strong manufacturing sector, Suzhou would boost its service industry, especially in the financial and logistics sectors through following the Shanghai zone's experience in financial innovation, trade management and supervision, Zhou said.

For example, a cross-Straits industrial pilot zone in Kunshan helped upgrade the county-level city in Suzhou from being a traditional manufacturing base to becoming a valued-added service supplier, and a number of financial organizations' headquarters have settled there, Zhou said.

More than 700 financial organizations operate in Suzhou, including more than 50 domestic and foreign banks, Zhou said.

Approximately one-third of the world's notebook computers are manufactured in Kunshan. Since the State Council approved the establishment of the Kunshan Deepening Cross-Straits Industrial Cooperation Pilot Zone last year, a number of innovative cross-Straits financial policies have landed on the pilot zone.

The Kunshan pilot zone, for instance, is allowed to conduct tests of individual cross-Straits renminbi business, and enterprises in the pilot zone and Taiwan also are permitted to carry out tests of internal renminbi loans.

Zhuang Yumin, deputy dean of the School of Finance at Renmin University of China in Beijing, said Suzhou's large-scale and concentrated industrial economy in Suzhou qualifies it to become a regional financial center.

"Such an economy's need for upgrading also calls for better financial service there," said Zhuang, who once worked for the municipal government for one year.

Suzhou, about 100 kilometers west of China's economic hub of Shanghai, housed about 18,200 overseas companies at the end of 2013. Major industries include iron and steel, technology, electronic equipment manufacturing and textile products.

Suzhou's import and export volume hit $309.3 billion last year, accounting for 8 percent of the country's total and 56 percent of that of Jiangsu province, according to Zhou.

"Based on the Shanghai zone's experience, we also seek to expand trade and increase the share of service trade," said Zhou.

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