AFTER 40 years of reform and opening-up, China needs to further boost its foreign trade, especially its imports. The China International Import Expo (CIIE) will be a golden opportunity for would-be partners who want to expand trade and promote products and know-how in China,” said Qu Xing, Chinese ambassador to Belgium and a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
CIIE, hailed as a golden opportunity by Qu, is an international expo initiated by China with participation by a number of international organizations and countries. The first CIIE will be held in Shanghai in November.
Why Host CIIE?
In May 2017, at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, President Xi Jinping announced China’s plan to host CIIE in 2018, as a move towards higher-level opening-up. “Increasing imports and playing host to the first CIIE” has been included in the 2018 government work report.
The 2017 China Yiwu Imported Commodities Fair attracts Spanish wine producers.
Why has China chosen to hold this expo amidst rising protectionism, the setbacks of globalization, and the retreats from multilateral trade systems? This question was answered by Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan at a press conference during this year’s National People’s Congress (NPC) and CPPCC sessions. “To hold CIIE is a major step for China to open wider to the global market and a concrete action to champion globalization and free trade; it shows the resolve, the responsibility, and the confidence of China to pursue opening-up in this new era.”
Zhong, who believed the expo was a Chinese solution to build a community with a shared future for mankind, used a metaphor to describe the nature of the expo: “It is not a Chinese solo, but a chorus of all participating countries.” The event serves China’s development goals, and meanwhile builds a platform to promote global trade, open economy, and a community with a shared future.
On one hand, it encourages other countries to share the benefits of China’s development. By expanding imports, China allows other nations to piggyback onto its fast development. It offers other developing nations a market for their exports and opportunities for growth and employment. On the other hand, it helps them participate in globalization. The expo will provide necessary support for LDCs (least development country), engaging them in the global value chain, so they can benefit from and contribute to the community of a shared future for mankind.
Chinese Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan addresses attendees at the One-Year Countdown Ceremony of the China International Import Expo on November 15, 2017.
According to Chinese Ambassador to Mexico Qiu Xiaoqi, who is a member of the National Committee of the CPPCC, “The expo is good news for the globe, because China has extended an invitation of collaboration to the rest of the world, an opportunity that other nations should not miss out on.”
“China was initially pressured to open to the world, but now aspires to open, more proactively adjusting to international and domestic situations. On one hand, the domestic development and structural transformation require furthering opening-up. On the other hand, many countries hope to share the development dividends and abundant opportunities in China created by its rapid growth in recent decades,” said Bai Ming, deputy director of International Marketing Office of Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation (CAITEC), Ministry of Commerce.
For Xu Hongcai, vice chief economist of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, holding CIIE indicates that China, which has shifted from being export-focused to attaching equal importance to both export and import, will pay more attention to the balance of trade.
Belt &Road partner countries with different industrial structures and complementary economies enjoy immense potential in trading. The Chinese government has been committed to removing trade barriers, building platforms, releasing pro-import policies, expanding imports from the Belt and Road partner countries, and optimizing trade structure. Statistics from the General Administration of Customs show that China’s trade with Belt and Road partner countries in 2017 was a staggering RMB 7.37 trillion, RMB 4.3 trillion of which were exports and RMB 3.07 trillion imports. With a year-on-year increase of 17.8 percent, it accounts for 26.5 percent of China’s total foreign trade.
Zhong Shan said that in the next five years China is expected to import US $2 trillion worth of goods from the Belt and Road countries. CIIE will not only help foreign products access the Chinese market, but also provide an international platform for the trading of commodities of different countries. In particular, it will serve as a new and broader platform for the B&R participating countries and their enterprises to cooperate on trade and investment, and integrate the goods and services trade resources.
By the end of February 2018, 1,000-plus companies from more than 120 countries and regions had signed up for the expo. Among the would-be participating companies, 100 are either a Fortune 500 corporation or an industry leader, nearly 500 are from B&R countries, and more than 140 are from 22 LDCs. Exhibits include industrial robots, digital factories, unmanned vehicles, clothing & apparel, daily consumer goods, and food & produce. The expo will showcase both the traditionally competitive industries that are well established in their home countries and up-and-coming products and services that have just made some splashes in recent years. It is estimated that about 150,000 Chinese and international buyers will show up.
The expo will provide necessary assistance to participating LDCs. For example, they will be offered a discount in booth fees and two free standard booths.
Since the beginning of reform and opening-up, China’s foreign trade has continuously expanded and leapfrogged, significantly contributing to the country’s opening-up and its economic and social development.
As its economy upgrades and improves in both quality and efficiency, China is offering the world better-quality products. In 2017 the volume of China’s commodity imports and exports increased by 14.2 percent, the highest in six years. China has become the world’s largest goods trading nation. Meanwhile, the quality of its foreign trade has developed by leaps and bounds, as shown in the increasing percentage of high-tech, high-quality, and high-value-added products in its exports and their growing market shares – high-tech products accounts for about 30 percent of China’s total exports.
Minister Zhong Shan pointed out that lots of innovative enterprises have sprung up in China. With ever-growing international competitiveness, they have become new engines for China’s foreign trade. In addition, cross-border e-commerce of China tops the world in size, accessible to most countries worldwide and well received among local consumers. The driving force for China’s foreign trade is changing.
At the same time, the huge Chinese market remains a destination for global goods. Domestic consumption, which contributed more than 65 percent to the Chinese GDP last year, is now a pillar of the Chinese economy. China, as the most populous country, the second largest economy, and the runner-up in both imports and consumption in the world, has entered a new stage of ever-expanding consumption, thus highlighting that there is large room for import growth.
At a press conference on November 9, 2017, Gao Feng, a spokesman of the Ministry of Commerce, announced that China was expected to import goods and services worth more than US $10 trillion over the next five years. He said that CIIE aimed to share the huge Chinese market with other countries by expanding imports and further opening to the outside.
On January 23, 2018, when Foreign Minister Wang Yi addressed the China-CELAC Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum, he specifically mentioned the CIIE and expressed China’s willingness to “open its market and share its development opportunities with other countries.”