China's largest free trade zone Hainan recorded a 40-percent growth in foreign trade in the first seven months of this year, the second fastest among all Chinese provinces and regions, thanks to continous opening-up and deepened ties with Belt and Road countries.
The southern province exported 19.17 billion yuan (about 2.7 bln U.S. dollars) worth of goods in the period, up 43 percent year-on-year, while imports totaled 34.93 billion yuan, an increase of 38.8 percent year on year, according to the latest data from Haikou Customs.
The island's trade with countries along the Belt and Road reached 19.59 billion yuan, an increase of 23.3 percent year on year. Its trade with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) surged 62.1 percent to 15.15 billion yuan.
"The performance is attributed to not only deeper cultivation of traditional markets, but also further exploration of Belt and Road markets," said Ju Chunmei, director of Haikou Customs' statistics and analysis unit.
Hainan, a remote and underdeveloped place for the exiled in ancient times, has been catapulted into the frontier of China's reform and opening-up since the 1980s, with a slew of favorable policies rolled out to develop tourism and solicit investments.
Despite the economic headwinds blowing from its cooling property market, Hainan is eyeing new momentum after it was in 2018 granted approval to build a pilot free trade zone and explore the establishment of a free trade port with Chinese characteristics.
The latest foreign trade figure adds to the series of official statistics that testify to its greater opening up. The scenic province received 38.6 million tourists in the first six months of this year, up six percent year on year, by developing rural tourism, duty-free stores and the cruise service industry.
It also marked a significant increase in foreign investment in the first half of this year, with foreign investment actually utilized rising 3.6 times over the same period of last year.