April 14, 2018 / 11:55 AM / 8 months ago

China to set up Hainan free trade zone by 2020, port by 2025-Xinhua

FILE PHOTO: A Chinese national flag flutters at the headquarters of a commercial bank on a financial street in central Beijing, China November 24, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China aims to establish a free trade zone in Hainan by 2020 and will encourage multinationals to set up their international and regional headquarters there, as part of plans to open up the province’s economy to foreign investors.

The guidance, published on the government’s official website, was jointly issued by the ruling Communist Party and State Council. It comes after President Xi Jinping announced on Friday that the country would grant foreign firms greater economic freedom in the southernmost province.

Known for its sandy beaches and resort-lined coast, Hainan is the headquarters of China’s aviation-to-financial services conglomerate HNA. This week, the province hosted the Boao Forum - Asia’s equivalent of Davos.

The document said that the government would set up an investment fund to support the building of a free trade port in Hainan by 2025, with the aim that the system will become “mature” by 2035.

It will phase out sales of traditionally fueled vehicles for greater environmental conservation in Hainan, and encourage foreign firms to participate in the building of the port.

It will also allow sports lottery games as well as horse-racing as part of plans to promote the development of the province’s tourism industry.

Bloomberg reported in February that China was considering allowing sports betting or a lottery on Hainan in a move that could open the door to physical casinos. The former Portuguese territory of Macau is currently the only place on Chinese soil where casino gambling is permitted.

The Chinese government plan for Hainan did not mention gambling or casinos.

Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Toby Chopra

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