China's highly anticipated negative lists for cross-border trade in services are in the pipeline as the draft version for the Hainan Free Trade Port is currently undergoing processing for final release, according to experts familiar with the matter.
As part of efforts to promote a higher level of opening-up and boost the services industry to optimize its economy, China plans to release the negative list for the Hainan FTP first, followed by versions covering pilot free trade zones as well as the entire nation, said Nie Pingxiang, deputy director of the Service Trade Institute under the Ministry of Commerce.
"The negative lists are likely to come out soon, probably within the year," Nie said, adding that based on the Hainan version, the shortest of all three, drafting for the other two will be relatively easier.
According to Nie, the focus of the negative lists will be on improving facilitation and liberalization of cross-border supply, as well as expanding employment access and facilitation for foreigners.
Experts said those negative lists for cross-border trade services are expected to tackle various issues restricting cross-border supply, overseas market consumption and movement of individuals to boost trade in services.
China's trade in services has been growing rapidly, accounting for an increasingly larger share of total foreign trade.
The latest data from the Ministry of Commerce showed that the country's services trade rose 3.3 percent from a year ago to 1.56 trillion yuan ($243.37 billion) in the first four months.
Services exports reached 746.21 billion yuan, surging 23.2 percent year-on-year, and services imports stood at 818.24 billion yuan, down 10 percent.
In April alone, China's trade in services reached 406.19 billion yuan, up 12.3 percent year-on-year, with services exports climbing 24.3 percent and imports growing 2.7 percent.
Chi Fulin, president of the China Institute for Reform and Development in Hainan, said China's trade in services will achieve faster growth as the pandemic is brought further under control.
The proportion of China's services trade within total foreign trade increased from 11.1 percent in 2010 to 14.6 percent in 2019, Chi said.
Ministry of Commerce officials have said that introducing the negative list management system is an important measure to boost the development and opening-up of the country's services industry.
At a recent media briefing, Gao Feng, a ministry spokesman, said, "While working to introduce a negative list on cross-border trade in services in Hainan, we will work with the province and relevant parties to go through and standardize domestic regulations affecting free and smooth trade in services in key areas."
He said that China will formulate a negative list of cross-border services trade in pilot FTZs based on the version for the Hainan FTP in order to further expand the scope of pilot work, improve FTZs' alignment with high-standard international rules, deepen their institutional openness and accumulate experience for the establishment and improvement of the national negative list management system for cross-border trade in services.