By Kong Dechen, People’s Daily

Since a protocol on upgrading the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between China and New Zealand officially entered into force on April 7, companies have enthusiastically followed the relevant procedures to take advantage of the resulting benefits.

The protocol, which was signed by the two parties in January 2021, is based on their FTA signed in 2008, the first of its kind between China and a developed country. The FTA upgrade reflects China’s continuous promotion of high-level openness.

“In the past, we could only ask for a certificate of origin before shipping or on the day of shipping. Sometimes when the shipping information was not available in time, we couldn’t handle it. Since the FTA was upgraded, we are able to follow the procedure after shipment, which is much more convenient,” said an executive from a trading company based in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province. (southern China).

Since the beginning of this year, the company has successfully applied for and obtained eight certificates of origin under the China-New Zealand FTA from a division in Shenzhen Customs District, which has helped it benefit from import tariff reductions and exemptions worth about 1.7 million yuan ($253,875) in New Zealand.

According to Wang Shouwen, Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce, China has so far concluded 19 free trade agreements with 26 countries and regions in Asia, Oceania, Latin America, Europe and Africa. , almost double from a decade ago, and its trade with them accounted for about 35% of China’s total foreign trade.

While increasing the number of its FTAs, China has also steadily improved their quality.

China sees lower tariff level and higher customs clearance efficiency in trade in goods. “Since 2012, China has signed nine new FTAs ​​with foreign countries. In most agreements, more than 90% of goods benefit from zero customs duties; and in some cases, the proportion reaches 97 percent,” Wang said.

Talking about the efficiency of customs clearance, Wang noted that it only takes less than one and a half days for imports to clear customs in China, compared to about four days in 2017. And goods exported from China do not need only about 1.2 hours for customs clearance, a tenth of the time taken in 2017, he added.

China has lowered the market threshold and expanded service trade and investment opening. “In services trade, China pledged to open the market to 100 sub-sectors upon joining the World Trade Organization (WTO). And in the recent Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, we added another 22 service sectors,” Wang said.

In addition, the country has adopted negative lists for foreign investment, committing to higher-level opening up in manufacturing, agriculture, mining and others, he added.

As China opens its doors more widely, the number of its free trade partners is also growing.

The entry into force of RCEP in early 2022 marked the formation of a free trade zone involving the largest population and the largest trade scale in the world, Wang said.

Since its inception, RCEP has steadily unleashed trade dividends and given new impetus to regional economic development. Data showed that China’s imports and exports with the other 14 RCEP members totaled 2.86 trillion yuan (about $428 billion) in the first quarter of this year, an increase of 6, 9% year-on-year and accounted for 30.4% of the country. total trade.

According to Wang, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) is accelerating multiple FTA negotiations. The country will make active efforts to advance its adherence to the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP) and the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA), and facilitate negotiations on a China-Japan FTA. -South Korea as well as its FTA negotiations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Israel and Ecuador.

China will promote the expansion and improve the quality and efficiency of its network of free trade zones (FTZs) and further raise the level of its FTAs; it will apply zero tariffs on a greater proportion of goods, facilitate market access for trade in services and investment, and actively participate in negotiations on new topics such as the digital economy and the protection of the environment ; the country will also strive to improve the overall utilization rate of FTAs ​​and enhance their effectiveness so that they better benefit businesses and people in the countries concerned at a faster pace.

As the number of China’s free trade partners continuously increases, more and more Chinese and foreign enterprises will enjoy the benefits of the country’s high-level opening up, Wang noted.