Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan (center) attends a countdown ceremony in Beijing on November 5, 2017 to mark one year until the First China International Import Expo, alongside vice ministers Wang Shouwen (right) and Wang Bingnan (CNSPHOTO)
The world's second largest economy, second largest importing country, and second largest country of consumption are all designations which testify to China's transformation in the four decades since reform and opening up began. They will also set the tone for the First China International Import Expo (CIIE) in November this year.
"The import expo connects the domestic and international markets, so it can coordinate their respective resources, which will help not only diversify China's consumer market, but also lower consumption costs, advance reform and opening up, and enhance the quality, efficiency and growth impetus of Chinese enterprises," said Gao Feng, spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), at a press conference on December 28, 2017.
"A top priority of the commercial sector in 2018 is to get things underway for the First CIIE," Gao said.
At the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing in May 2017, President Xi Jinping announced that China will start hosting the CIIE from 2018. The inaugural event is scheduled for November 5-10 in Shanghai.
According to Gao, China is now at a crucial stage in the transformation of the development pattern. MOFCOM will cooperate with related departments and local governments to prepare for the expo, ensuring it is successful and true to the task of promoting the country's high-quality economic growth.
"The world economy is entering a period of profound change, and the trend of economic globalization is encountering many bumps in the road. Therefore, the international community shares a strong desire to see the continued expansion of the Chinese market, benefit from opportunities presented by China's development and participate in the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative," said Fu Ziying, China's International Trade Representative and Vice Minister of Commerce, at a press briefing held by the State Council Information Office (SCIO) on November 2, 2017. "China's economy has shifted from a phase of high-speed growth to one of high-quality development. Accelerated adjustment to the economic structure generates a stronger demand for goods and services of a higher quality and catering to diversified needs."
"Against such a backdrop, to hold the China International Import Expo is in line with China's developmental needs and the economic requirements of the world," said Fu.
According to Fu, the hosting of the CIIE reflects China's willingness to assume its international responsibility and can encourage other countries to further increase trade and open their markets, promoting economic globalization and building an open world economy.
"This is perhaps the only example of an import expo initiated by a developing country anywhere in the world. It offers an opportunity for countries undergoing various stages of economic development to present their achievements in trade and investment," said Fu. "It is also a platform for different parties to discuss international trade and other major global economic issues."
Vice Premier Wang Yang heads the preparatory committee for the First CIIE, the first plenary meeting of which was held in August 2017. In October 2017, the implementation plan for the event was approved.
At a MOFCOM press conference on December 14, 2017, Gao revealed that a Russian delegation from the Ministry of Industry and Trade was visiting Shanghai so as to find out more about the CIIE, and had met with officials from the Expo Bureau.
"Russia is the first country invited to China for an on-site visit. They have demonstrated great interest in, and full support for, China's initiative. It is also an excellent example of how attractive the CIIE is to foreign countries. To our knowledge, the Russian Government accords great importance to the CIIE and has confirmed that Russia will participate in the country pavilion for trade and investment as well as the enterprise and business fair," Gao said.
According to MOFCOM, China has sent invitations to over 200 trading partners worldwide, with more than 70 countries and regions having already designated their local organizers and coordinators for the expo. It is expected that 150,000 purchasers will participate in the event. During the expo, the Hongqiao International Trade Forum will be contemporaneously held to discuss mutually beneficial cooperation measures in an open world economy.
Customers browse goods at a shopping center selling imported products in Zhengzhou, central China’s Henan Province, on August 18, 2016 (XINHUA)
Fit for purpose
As China's international trade center, Shanghai has been selected to host the First CIIE. "Shanghai has the foundations, conditions and experience necessary for hosting major international events, such as the 2014 Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, the 2010 World Expo, the 2007 Special Olympics and the 2003 APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting," said Zhou Bo, Vice Mayor of Shanghai, at the SCIO press briefing.
According to Zhou, Shanghai is also an efficient and convenient transportation hub. The city's two airports are capable of handling more than 100 million trips a year, ranking fifth in the world for such criteria. Shanghai Pudong International Airport is also among the world's top three airports for cargo imports, and Shanghai's port has topped the world rankings for seven successive years in terms of container handling capacity.
Zhou said that by 2020, Shanghai is expected to be an international trade hub both serving and reinforcing China's status in global finance and trade. "So far, we have greatly improved the city's ability to pool and allocate trade resources and attract innovative institutions. For instance, the total volume of imports and exports handled in Shanghai's various ports of entry accounted for more than one fifth of the country's total, and the service trade volume in the city accounted for more than 30 percent of the national whole."
"The CIIE will also provide valuable new opportunities for Shanghai," said Zhou, adding that the city will improve its role in imports so as to better serve the country and the world. "Shanghai has long been a major export platform in China, and the expo will give us an opportunity to turn the city into a major platform for imports too."
Plenty to offer
Since one of the most important goals in hosting the CIIE is to provide a major platform for countries in various stages of development to improve their influence and intensify trade cooperation, China will take measures to help products from these countries enter the Chinese market, said Wang Bingnan, Vice Minister of Commerce, at the SCIO press briefing.
According to Wang, China will share market opportunities in order to achieve common development. China has a huge market of more than 1.3 billion people, whose demand for quality products and services is increasing. The CIIE will be a vital platform for large-scale international cooperation, and China wants to invite other developing countries and the least developed countries to organize their companies to attend and share the huge business opportunities of the Chinese market.
Since trade and investment are connected and complementary, China will, considering the various demands of participating countries, organize a series of economic and trade activities such as supply-demand matchmaking and investment seminars, aiming to better connect trade and industries, and providing new channels for cooperation between countries.
China will also reduce or waive the exhibition fees for some countries. After the expo has been concluded, China will establish a one-stop trading platform for display and transaction services both online and offline as part of a long-term project.
Copyedited by Laurence Coulton
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