China will further open up its services sector by expanding a pilot program for innovative development of trade in services, the State Council decided at an executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday.
It was decided at the meeting that the pilot program will be rolled out in 17 areas, including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, from this July 1 to June 30, 2020, for the innovative development of services trade. The program was launched by the State Council in 2016.
A series of opening-up measures will be piloted covering telecommunications, tourism, engineering consulting, finance and legal services. Access measures for trade in services on cross-border delivery and overseas consumption will be explored and refined. Restrictions will be gradually lifted or eased, and customs clearance and visa arrangements will be streamlined for freer flow of goods and people.
In this year's Government Work Report, Li said that processes for developing trade in services will be reformed.
"Developing services trade is instrumental in transforming China's development model and achieving high-quality development. The services sector is still an area of weakness in our country's overall development," Li said.
"With things going well, we should lose no time in applying the experience gained from the pilot program in wider areas. This will help advance our opening-up and enhance China's global competitiveness," he said.
According to the Ministry of Commerce, China's trade in services totaled 4.7 trillion yuan (736.5 billion U.S. dollars) in 2017, up by 6.8 percent year-on-year. Exports of services increased by 10.6 percent to 1.54 trillion yuan (241.3 billion U.S. dollars), while imports rose 5.1 percent to 3.16 trillion yuan (295.2 billion U.S. dollars).
Li emphasized the importance of getting the priorities right in spurring trade in services. "Our tourism sector is falling woefully short at the moment. Efforts are needed to make the services at scenic spots and payment methods more overseas tourist-friendly. The possibility of two-way opening-up in emerging services should also be fully explored."
The State Council decided at the meeting that trade in services in such areas as R&D and design, inspection and testing, international settlement and exhibition will be expanded. Tax exemption policies will be made available for services exports and eligible exporters can enjoy zero tax rates. Exports of emerging services that are guided by the Internet Plus will be encouraged.
Li emphasized the need for closer interagency coordination and thorough delivery of all planned measures to improve the business environment and make trade in services a new highlight in China's opening-up and development.