With the deepening of the “Belt and Road” policy and the rapid development of economic globalization, international trade is expanding rapidly. In order to facilitate the circulation of goods and simplify trading procedures, free trade zones (hereinafter referred to as FTZ) were invented. In the FTZ agreement, goods between member countries can be circulated more efficiently, thus saving time and effort for each transnational transaction.
At 9 AM on the 21st May, International Forum On Free Trade Zones Development officially opened in Haikou。
This is the first high-level forum in the field of free trade zones held in China since the establishment of the first pilot FTZ in China more than five years ago. The forum lasted for two days with the theme of “Constructing a Better Business Environment and Building a New Height for FTZs”, and Zhang Jianfeng, the Vice President of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, presided the opening ceremony. Gao Yan, President of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, Chen Guowei, Malaysian Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to China and Chairman of the Malaysian Business Council, and Shen Xiaoming, Governor of Hainan Province, addressed the opening ceremony.
The forum attracted over 1,000 representatives from 11 internationally renowned FTZs, 5 FTZ international organizations, 18 embassies and consulates, 11 Fortune 500 companies and many academic institutions. Huang Qifan, the Vice Chairman of China Center for International Economic Exchanges and Former Mayor of Chongqing Municipality, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Gregory P Gilligan, the Vice Chairman of the China-US Chamber of Commerce, and other political leaders also delivered speeches at the event. During the forum, the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade also issued the “Free Trade Zone Development Haikou Initiative”.
One of the keynote speakers, John Westover, Secretary General of World Federation of Free Trade Zones, addressed the attendees regarding FTZ development globally and in China. Mr Westover first came to China 26 years ago for humanitarian and volunteer work and later became a successful entrepreneur, investor, respected advisor and philanthropist. He is now heading The World Federation of Free Trade Zones, helping spearhead initiatives to innovate FTZ development globally and in China.
Promote the development of the FTZ with resources and more
In the keynote speech of the forum, which he delivered in native level fluency Mandarin, Secretary General Westover stated: “Each FTZ has its own characteristics, each FTZ has its own pillar industries, so how to make FTZ better and more advanced? The key is to construct the ‘bridge’ and ‘building the ties’.” This is the initial intention of his concept of the “World Federation of Free Trade Zones” (WFFTZ).
WFFTZ is a non-governmental organization registered with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. It is currently qualifying as a special advisory body from the United Nations and has completed legal settlement in Xi’an in January of this year, where it is building a World Free Trade Zone Center in collaboration with the XiAn FTZ and local RE development. WFFTZ was established under the initiative of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), The Commonwealth Free Trade Commission, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the International Trade Center (ITC) and is comprised of 288 FTZ and related industry members in 68 countries, including China FTZs.
One of the purposes of WFFTZ is to establish a “Friendship Circle” between free trade areas for global trade liberalization. It is accomplishing great results by building alliances and initiatives between its members as well as other existing and potential FTZ locations. For example between Cambodia and Israel, it is implementing establishment of a new type of FTZ, and has already achieved good results. This was a highlighted at a signing ceremony held at the Forum.
“Now, under the general trend of the economy globalization, it is necessary to plan big events like today’s forum. Multinational companies can use these activities to gain resources and land in the local area, then quickly move on to enter the next market. Through the global digital world trading platforms (d-WTP) and decentralized digital e-commerce platforms, we can provide more opportunities for SMEs and developing countries.” The way of resource cooperation and docking can actively promote the development of FTZs and utilizing public ledger and blockchain technology can upgrade the entire model. This is exactly what Westover and the World Free Trade Zone Federation are bringing to pass.
FTZ Of New Technology + Lifestyle Constructs New Type Of FTZ System
At the press conference in the afternoon, Westover said that the unique geographical environment of Hainan and trade policy will enable the Free Trade Zone of Hainan to grow rapidly. WFFTZ helped co-sponsor this forum in order to increase the exchange of knowledge and further cooperation between participating parties. He revealed that Siem Reap in Cambodia will establish a “Smart City” FTZ, that will include cooperation with Israel and China in health care, tourism, agriculture technology, research and development, etc. “Cambodia, like Hainan, has many international tourists, so through such a collaboration, we can reach out to more potential customers and markets, which are the basic conditions the upcoming free trade zone in Siem Reap Cambodia is based on. ”
In addition, at the interview after the conference, Westover elaborated that the International Forum On Free Trade Zones Development 2019 has been located in Hainan, which builds a bridge between China FTZs and global FTZ resources. In the future, the WFFTZ will continue to hold conferences for global FTZs to accelerate the exchange and development of global FTZs. The next such conference will be held in Siam Reap later this year. He revealed in the interview, that Siem Reap in Cambodia will soon build a FTZ with the theme of “Smart City”, and will work with many foreign countries to launch projects. Westover explained that like the Hainan government, the Cambodian government is now vigorously supporting the cooperation in the local FTZs and abroad, including increasing trading transactions between Hainan and Siem Reap in Cambodia. At the same time, WTTTZ will continue to work on the integration of resources in all FTZs around the world, so that organizations and enterprises that want to “go out” or “get in”, could be introduced to matching resources more effectively, and thus gaining a common development of all FTZs.
In order to express the support of the World Federation of Free Trade Zone to the “Smart City” FTZ in Siem Reap Cambodia, a signing and rewarding ceremony took place at the conference between Westover and CK Lee, the chief designer of the “Smart City” in Siem Reap.
After the ceremony, CK Lee, the chief designer of the “Smart City” in Siem Reap, mentioned in an interview that the construction of the “Smart City” FTZ will combine the advanced experience and technology of developed countries,and to learn from each other. For example, inside the FTZ, “Mesh” network will be established, and the underlying technology of blockchain will be utilized to provide convenience for enterprises to register and pay bills, so it will be a smarter and safer FTZ than the traditional FTZ. At the same time, CK Lee said that “Smart City” in Siem Reap will also add in the “Lifestyle” concept of “homeland” on the basis of technology, to create academies, hospitals, entertainment facilities and etc., so that the families of people working in the FTZ could gain an all-round convenience of living.
Considering the economy globalization as the background and taking the development and cooperation of “Belt and Road” as an opportunity, the World Free Trade Zone Federation will actively explore the role of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, and blockchain in global economy, and effectively progress the development between diverse industries. The concept of “Center Of The Global FTZ” can contribute to the development of global trade by deploying advanced concepts and being technology-oriented, with the help of the World Federation of Free Trade Zones.