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Zhangjiagang :
Inland river port sees fast growth

Since its launch in 1992, the Zhangjiagang Free Trade Zone (ZFTZ) has become the number-two focus of economic internationalization along the Yangtze River after the thriving Waigaoqiao Free Trade Zone in Shanghai's powerful Pudong New Area.

Zhangjiagang is the nation's only inland free trade zone on the Yangtze and the only one integrated with the ports of all 14 duty-free trade zones approved by the State Council.

That kind of prominence has brought Zhangjiagang a strong inflow of capital.

Since the ZFTZ began operating in 1992, 345 enterprises have been approved and 238 in operation.

Total contractual investment in the area exceeds $1.2 billion, with $430 million actually invested. At 22 enterprises, investment exceeds $10 million.

The largest project, a grain and oil processing base, is expected to be built by a US investor with $120 million.

Projects currently in operation fill-out the three functions of the zone: foreign trade, storage and export processing.

By the end of 1994, foreign trade volume surpassed $100 million.

The 4.1-square-kilometre area is near the port of Zhangjiagang at the throat of the Yangtze River-the key junction connecting Shanghai at the terminus of the Yangtze with Nanjing, Wuhan and Chongqing on the middle and upper reaches of the river.

Among Zhangjiagang's assets are its deep water port sheltered by Shuangshan Island, its ice-and silt-free condition and its ability to load and unload ships in large storms.

Five docks with a total of 20 berths and an oil and foodstuff transfer pier are available and 12 mid-river buoys can be used to moor 29 ships of 10,000 tonnage at one time.

The port's freight-transport business has connections with more than 100 berths around the world; its annual handling capacity is 15 million tons.

Zhangjiagang Vice-Mayor Lu Qinhua said the city invited famous planners to design the area according to advanced models from abroad and worked to make it a leading trade zone.

"We paid a lot of attention to infrastructure construction: 550 million yuan ($66.27 million) has been poured into 36 infrastructure projects since 1992."

The investment has given the zone a strong foundation in transport, communications and utilities infrastructure, Lu said.