City pilot innovation base, huge opportunity for RCEP members

(China Daily)| Updated : 2021-12-28

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The coastal city of Qingdao in Shandong province is aiming to build itself into a frontier and demonstration base in China for participation in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement, giving full play to the city's economic and trade cooperation foundation and geographical advantages with RCEP signatory members.

The RCEP agreement, signed by 15 Asia-Pacific countries in November 2020, will take effect on Jan 1 in 10 countries-RCEP signatory members that have completed the ratification procedures.

The agreement has grouped together all of the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-or ASEAN comprising Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam-and China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, to create the world's largest free trade bloc.

The implementation of the agreement, a big step forward toward regional economic integration, is expected to inject economic growth impetus into member economies.

Qingdao Pilot Innovation Base for Economic and Trade Cooperation is the city's main "battlefield "in grasping the development opportunities of the RCEP.

Covering a total area of around 34.2 square kilometers, the pilot innovation base, located in Qingdao's Shibei district, consists of the Qingdao international cruise port area, an economic development corridor, a technological innovation corridor and five subsections of exhibition service, port service, business affairs, international technology innovation and industry upgrading.

"The RCEP is a huge (opportunity) window for the reconstruction of supply chains and value chains. With the support of the RCEP, a series of projects have been poured in, and Shibei has entered a golden period of great opening-up, construction and development," said Zhang Xinzhu, Party secretary of Shibei district.

Zhang added that the pilot innovation base is not only a strategic support for Shibei district to leverage high-quality development, but also a new platform for international cooperation for Qingdao and even the province.

Focusing on the construction of the pilot innovation base, Shibei district has listed an industrial development map, which attaches importance to five key industrial directions of new shipping, new trade, new finance, new-generation information technology and competitive industries.

It is expected that by 2022, an industrial development pattern with distinctive features, sound ecology and clear benefits will be formed in the pilot innovation base.

After nearly a year of planning and promotion, the pilot innovation base has achieved breakthroughs in its operating mechanism. It has set up China's first comprehensive enterprise service platform focusing on RCEP economic and trade cooperation-the RCEP Qingdao Enterprise Service Center.

"The RCEP Qingdao Enterprise Service Center aims to be a pioneer in providing enterprise services, striving to form replicable experiences, and help accelerate the establishment of an international, law-based and convenient business environment," said Wang Ke, deputy director of Shibei district's industrial development office.

To ensure the fast and steady operation of the service center, Shibei district selected 20 business backbones from its government divisions including human resources, social security, commerce and administrative examination and approval to support the service center.

As of Nov 30, the service center has issued 16,918 certificates of origin, dealt with 4,261 cases of export tax refunds, handled 4,080 online administrative examinations and approvals and reviewed 4,768 comprehensive cases for international professionals.

Looking ahead, by 2025, Qingdao will produce more innovative, open, integrated and internationally competitive institutional innovations in its pilot innovation base, and build the pilot innovation base into a new type of free trade park featuring convenient trade, open services, free investment, safe and efficient supervision and strong international influence.

According to the local government, by 2035, the pilot innovation base is expected to reach a more mature cooperation system with the RCEP signatory members, which will contribute to its efforts to establish a modern, comprehensive and mutually beneficial partnership among the members and promote the expansion of regional trade and investment.


A customs officer at the RCEP Qingdao Enterprise Service Center helps a woman apply for certificates of origin. ZHANG FAN/FOR CHINA DAILY