"A common meeting place for traders in services is needed in both China and the wider world. We need to deepen communication and cooperation among global players to take international trade in services to a higher level. The fair should also help deepen exchanges and cooperation among governments and aid the sharing of the latest global information and policies of different countries on trade in services," Lü said.
An Authoritative World Platform for Trade in Services
CIFTIS was billed as an international fair featuring global traders sharing information and resources. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have been invited to be the permanent supporting organizations for the fair. Leaders from a number of developed countries and China's main trade partners in services were present at the inaugural ceremony and high-level forums.
Currently, the CIFTIS is the only comprehensive international fair for trade in services. It features all 12 sectors of the trade as defined by the WTO: transportation, education, distribution, communication, tourism and travel services, construction and engineering services, recreational, cultural and sporting services, health services, environmental services, financial (insurance and banking) services, business (including professional and computer) services and other services. The fair aims to appeal to both buyers and sellers of services alike.
CIFTIS, as an international hub, drew on the best parts of Western and Chinese fair management during its five-day run this year.
It featured six key programs: the opening ceremony, high-level forums, business talks, exhibitions, theme day activities and press conferences. The opening ceremony was attended by state leaders from around the world like Vice President of Kenya Kalonzo Stephen Musyoka, the U.K. Trade and Investment Minister Lord Green, and the Australian Minister for Trade Dr. Craig Emerson. Its high-level forums included one for China-Africa cooperation on trade in services and one for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Business talks were at the core of the fair. Sponsors conducted business talks involving all 12 sectors of trade in services. Exhibitions provided a window for enterprises to showcase their products and achievements, and an important platform to attract potential cooperation partners. Exhibitions were divided into a national section for domestic provinces and municipalities, an overseas section, a Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan section and an area set aside for international corporations. Theme day activities were dedicated to introducing various countries, domestic provinces and municipalities, as well as China's large-scale state-owned enterprises. The Ministry of Commerce and other ministries, international organizations and industry associations provided a steady flow of information to the press for the duration of the fair.
The organizers endeavored to shape the first CIFTIS into a pragmatic and efficient large-scale business event with deal-making at its core. They tried to ensure an equal mix of buyers and sellers at the fair and encourage them to meet in a variety of settings, allowing the best possible chance for deals to be struck.
A New Landmark for Beijing
That CIFTIS was held in Beijing is testament to the special place Beijing occupies in China's rapidly developing trade in services. According to Cheng Yuhua, vice director of Beijing Municipal Commission of Commerce, Beijing currently leads China in services trade. In 2011, Beijing's trade volume in services reached US $89.54 billion, taking up over 20 percent of the national total. What's noteworthy is that 75 percent of Beijing's GDP is derived from its service industries, much higher than the national average level of 43 percent. In addition, the proportion of emerging service sectors such as communication, insurance, finance and IT to Beijing's total service trade volume rose to 40.36 percent in 2011, from 30 percent in 2003.
Beijing has also led China in service outsourcing in recent years. In 2011, the city completed offshore outsourcing contracts to a value of US $2.449 billion, representing a year-on-year increase of 59.3 percent. As of the end of 2011, of those enterprises in Beijing engaged in service offshore outsourcing, 53 saw their business volume surpass US $10 million, and four were selected as China's 2011 Top Ten Service Outsourcing Enterprises.
A number of businesses in Beijing are spearheading this service trade surge. For instance, the city now seats all of the China's three national bases for copyright trade, including the International Copyright Exchange. The China Beijing Equity Exchange is the largest of its kind in the nation.
Cheng indicated that the rapid development of Beijing's trade in services had a lot to do with the city's status as national capital and its favorable trade policies and a can-do attitude. Beijing's economic development owes a lot to the financial support of the central authorities, who have helped Beijing gain an economic foothold as a hub for many international enterprises.
The large number of foreign tourists who frequent the city lends impetus to its service industry. Favorable policies prescribed in the 11th Five-year Development Plan for Beijing Service Industries have also helped.
To maintain its leading national position in the services trade, Beijing has established an interdepartmental working group to promote the development of the sector. The city's vice mayor is in charge of this working group, which consists of 25 administrative departments and intermediary organizations. "On the whole, CIFTIS will promote the sound interaction between, and the coordinated development of, trade in services and the commodity trade in China. We notice from the history of some developed countries that service industries become an integral component of transformation in a country's economy. As for CIFTIS, it will definitely go some way to improving the capital's and China's trade patterns. It's all part of the push toward a smarter economy, " Cheng said.
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