New Qingdao aquatic free trade zone aims to minimize dent of trade war

A special trading zone for seafood has launched operations in Qingdao.

The Qingdao International Marine Industry Park was initiated in 2013 and was originally projected to cost around USD 1.5 billion (EUR 1.3 billion). Today one of its major features – the Qingdao Aquatic Trade and Logistic Center – sits on a 400-hectare site and aims to capitalize on China’s increasing demand for imported seafood and make the city the international aquatic trading locus for northeast Asia, handling three million tons of seafood annually. It has also emerged as a key part of China’s efforts to minimize the impact of its trade war with the U.S.

The largest city in southeasterly Shandong Province, Qingdao is China’s leading fisheries import and processing hub but has made additional moves to send its seafood sector up the value chain. Qingdao’s municipal government has for some years stated its goal of becoming the seafood trading center for North Asia. It set up its China (Shandong) Free Trade Pilot Zone with the aim of attracting firms in seafood trading with a number of perks. According to a local government document, the free trade zone includes bonded warehouses, express customs processes and special tax rates for companies and individuals, but also in marine industries including offshore aquaculture equipment, as well as new financial trading instruments for commodities.

The free trade zone is one of six new zones rushed into being across China in 2019 as boosters for economic growth through liberalized trade, currency, and regulatory regimes. There are now 18 such free trade zones in China, with a major secondary goal to boost trade with Japan and South Korea, as the capitals of both are within a 90-minute flying time from Qingdao.

China’s cabinet, the State Council, in 2018 approved the establishment of a Shandong Free Trade Zone but Chinese officials appeared to have moved more quickly than usual in getting the zone operational as the trade war put a dent on business confidence and economic growth. 

Aside from Qingdao, one of the new zones is located in the southerly province of Guangxi, bordering Vietnam, which is home to a major aquaculture sector producing shrimp and tilapia. The expressed goal of that zone is to grow trade between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), with a special emphasis on growing e-commerce shipments.  

Long a hub for export-focused seafood processing, Qingdao in 2015 announced a giant park for internet sales of seafood to the domestic Chinese market. Combining processing and trading facilities, the Qingdao International Marine Industry Park is a flagship project for Qingdao New Agricultural Alliance, a government entity which teamed with Qingdao Dadao Brand Management Co., known for its range of dried seafood snacks distributed nationally through convenience retailers like 7-11. 

Photo courtesy of Alexey Lesik/Shutterstock


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