context: With trade falling in December, China’s economy is slowing as it enters 2019. The pressure to maintain growth amid domestic and international challenges may lead Beijing to take more aggressive structural reform measures.

Following the Central Economic Work Conference, Ren Hongbin 任鸿斌 Ministry of Commerce (MofCOM) assistant minister described the ministry’s 2019 priorities

  • one promotion, two stabilisation and three key tasks
    • promote consumption
    • stabilise foreign trade and investment
    • three key tasks
      • prepare for the second China International Import Expo
      • appropriately handle US-China trade friction
      • push forward pilot free trade zones (FTZs) and explore free trade ports (FTPs)
  • build a stronger domestic market
    • upgrade pedestrian streets and set up international consumption centres in cities
    • promote better circulation of industrial products in rural areas, and agricultural products in cities
    • promote goods and services consumption simultaneously
    • build a modern supply chain
    • promote online and offline integration
  • open up the market comprehensively
    • accelerate the shift from openness of goods and elements to openness of rules
    • promulgate Foreign Investment Law as soon as possible
    • implement pre-establishment national treatment and negative list-based management systems
    • deepen international cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative
    • actively participate in global economic governance, support necessary WTO reforms

On development of FTZs and FTPs in particular, Ren outlines five focuses

  • build an FTP with Chinese characteristics in Hainan
  • set up new regions of the Shanghai FTZ
  • reduce special management measures for foreign investment, further open up medical and education sectors
  • prioritise FTZs as pilots for key reforms
  • roll out replicable best practices