First negative list for trade in services manifests China’s determination to open its door wider

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By Liu He, People’s Daily

China’s Ministry of Commerce recently released a negative list for cross-border trade in services in the Hainan Free Trade Port (FTP), south China’s island province Hainan. It is the first negative list for cross-border services trade in the country.

The list set out 70 special management measures in 11 categories for overseas services providers. For areas not included in the list, domestic and overseas services providers shall have a level playing field and enjoy equal market access in the Hainan FTP.

As an institutional arrangement for opening-up, the negative list represents a major breakthrough in the administration mode of services trade. It is not only helpful in further liberalizing trade in services, but has manifested China’s determination to open its door wider.

Unlike trade in goods, services trade refers to economic activities that involve the purchasing and selling of services. Closely linked with people’s daily lives, trade in services takes place in many fields, including overseas travel, education, health care, as well as information communications.

In recent years, the fast growth of digital economy has promoted the emergence of new business forms and models of services trade, and further facilitated its development.

For nearly 10 years (last year excluded), global cross-border trade in services has registered an average annual growth rate twice that of trade in goods. It can be expected that cross-border services trade will become a key driver of global trade in the future.

While pushing ahead with high-quality development, China, the only developing country among the top five traders of services in the world, has seen its trade in services continuously expand. The country’s size of services trade market is estimated to reach several trillion yuan in the future.

The launch of the negative list for cross-border trade in services in the Hainan FTP is expected to benefit many parties. Relaxation of restrictions on market access for trade in services will allow overseas enterprises to find more business opportunities in Hainan, and introduction of high-quality services from abroad will help further satisfy Chinese people’s needs for a better life. Besides, by stepping up stress tests, Hainan FTP will be able to give full play to its role as a pilot ground for opening-up.

Faced with grim and complex domestic and international circumstances, China has not altered its decision and determination to deepen reform and expand opening-up.

The services sector is unique as it is asset-light but heavy in soft factors of production. As such, it requires, more than other sectors, an open, transparent, inclusive and non-discriminatory environment for businesses to grow. It calls for the concerted efforts of all countries to reduce border and behind-the-border barriers constraining the flow of production factors and promote cross-border connectivity.

From specifying the entrance of overseas services providers to implementing the policy of “entry unless on the list”, from granting overseas services providers access to the Chinese market to regulating and improving such access, China has actively prepared itself for the actual needs for growing trade in services and facilitated open cooperation in the services sector.

The country will promote greater harmonization of rules for the services sector at the multilateral and regional levels, and work for continued improvement in global economic governance and more inclusive growth of the world economy.

A review of human history shows that the world economy thrives in openness and withers in seclusion. Through windows into China’s higher-level opening-up, the world can see that the country will only open its door wider and generate increasing opportunities for the rest of the world.

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