SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China will allow free trade zones to be established only if they can be replicated elsewhere in the country, a senior commerce ministry official told the state news agency Xinhua.
At least 20 local governments have reportedly submitted proposals for free trade zones in recent months, including the coastal cities of Qingdao and Xiamen and the western metropolis of Chongqing, Xinhua reported late on Monday.
However, authorities have not given any clear indication that the proposals will be approved.
FTZs "will not flourish everywhere in China", as it was not a goal of the central government to establish zones with a range of preferential policies, Xinhua quoted the unidentified official as saying.
"Where and when to set up an FTZ and what and how to test favourable policies in the zone will depend on whether they are replicable elsewhere in the country," the official said.
China's high-profile Shanghai FTZ, launched with much fanfare last September, has failed to attract sufficient investor interest as officials have struggled to adapt an appropriate policy mix.
Still, the commerce ministry encouraged local governments to "study and learn" from the Shanghai experience, rather than promote new zones, the official said.
Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Shri Navaratnam