Making sense of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone

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Shanghai’s new Free Trade Zone (FTZ) boasts a number of firsts, not least the speed of its creation. From a few oblique media references through the middle of 2013, the FTZ has raced through government approvals, receiving State Council (the highest body in China) approval in August and formally launching at the end of September, accompanied by a blaze of media interest.

So what exactly is the Shanghai FTZ and what does it mean for international business? The first thing notable about the FTZ is its modest size — just a narrow coastal strip of the extended Shanghai metropolitan area and covering 29km².

However, the Chinese government has historically preferred using contained pilot programmes as the launching pad for more widespread reform. Depending on the success of the implementation process, the Shanghai FTZ model may well become the blueprint for more widespread economic reform both in Shanghai and across the country…

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