Financial reforms for the Shanghai (pilot) free-trade zone: slowly coming into focus

The China (Shanghai) pilot free-trade zone (FTZ) was launched in September 2013 with the promise of significant reforms in a number of areas. For the foreign investor community, the change from an approval-based to a registration-based system for the establishment of subsidiaries in the FTZ (in those areas not on the so-called ‘Negative List’) and the promise of opening up a number of new sectors to foreign investment in the FTZ raised a significant level of interest. However, it was the prospect of financial and foreign exchange reforms and of experiments with liberalisation of the RMB on the capital account that generated perhaps the most excitement among commentators.

The master plan for the China (Shanghai) pilot free-trade zone, issued by the State Council at the time of the FTZ launch, was the blueprint for the FTZ’s development. The goals for financial reform set out in the master plan were to further open up investment, promote the transformation of trade development and deepen the liberalisation and innovation of the financial sector.

China’s financial and foreign exchange regulators — China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) and the banking, insurance and securities regulators — agreed to provide substantive rules and guidelines on how the master plan’s broad statements of principle will be implemented in the FTZ…

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