Free trade zone in pipeline in Xinjiang | 2005-09-20

BEIJING, Sept. 20 -- The foundation will be laid within this year for a border free trade zone between China and Kazakhstan at port Korgas in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

The China-Kazakhstan International Border Co-operation Centre is the first cross-border co-operation project in the world, sources said.

What's more, the establishment of the co-operation centre will promote economic and trade ties between the two countries.

"Preparation for the construction of the centre is going smoothly," said Jia Yisheng, secretary of the Korgas Port Committee of the Communist Party of China.

With a total area of 14.36 square kilometres across the border between China and Kazakhstan, the free trade zone is expected to be completed in three to five years.

Citizens of China, Kazakhstan and other countries, commodities and vehicles are free to cross the border within the zone.

The free trade zone was fixed by President Hu Jintao and his Kazakhstan counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev in a joint declaration in July that both sides will step up preparations for the construction of the centre and put it into use as quickly as possible.

As an affiliated part of the co-operation centre in the Chinese side, the International Commercial and Trade Centre has already started construction in August at Korgas, according to Jia.

The Chinese side has 13.16 square kilometres and the Kazakhstan part has 1.2 square kilometres.

The Jinghe-Yining-Korgas Railway will open to traffic in 2007.

"At that time, Korgas will become a multifunctional international transportation hub that has both railway and highway transportation," Jia said. "This will provide a necessary infrastructural guarantee to the co-operation centre."

As the nearest port to Kazakhstan, the port of Korgas also aims to build its industry park into an export base to Central Asia and Europe.

Leather processing, construction material processing, food, electromechanical equipment, clothing and light industry are given priority in the industry park, which started in 2002.

Bordering eight countries in lines of 5,600 kilometres, Xinjiang owns 17 national ports.

Advantageous geological condition has attracted many inland enterprises to open factories at these ports.

The Tianjin-based Markor Group is one example. It opened a trade company at the Alashankou port.

"We import high quality wood from Russia via train through the port," said Lu Yongjun, administrative office director of the company.

"After being processed, the boards will be transported to Tianjin to produce furniture."

Markor Group opened a factory at the port, he said, because fees will be much higher if the company transported timber log inland.

All of the furniture produced by the group is exported to the United States, European countries and Japan. Enditem

(Source: China Daily)