An exhibitor promotes beer from the Czech Republic at the 20th China International Fair for Investment and Trade in Xiamen, southeast China's Fujian Province, on September 8
On the first floor of Xiamen's International Conference and Exhibition Center, a staff member from Mali's Investment Promotion Agency is busy setting up a booth. Publicity posters are hung all over the walls of the small area so that Chinese investors can easily identify the fields available for investment in the country. The scene is taking place during the 20th China International Fair for Investment and Trade (CIFIT) held on September 8-11 in Xiamen in China's southeast Fujian Province.
Awa Bagayoko works nimbly with confidence and optimism. "It's the first time I've come to China to promote investment in Mali. Apart from infrastructure, we hope Chinese companies can also increase investment in agriculture, such as cotton. Mali welcomes foreign investors and offers many preferential policies to facilitate investment," she told Beijing Review.
The 20th CIFIT attracted participants from nearly 50 countries and regions, who crowded into the hall and exchanged investment information with the same type of expectations as Bagayoko.
CIFIT, which aims to increase foreign investment into and outbound investment from China, is the only international investment promotion event for two-way investment and the largest investment exhibition in the world recognized by the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry.
With 2018 marking the 40th anniversary of its reform and opening-up policy, China has steadily kept up with the process and continuously optimized its investment environment, making remarkable achievements in promoting foreign investment and outbound investment.
Official data showed that China had attracted nearly $2.1 trillion of foreign direct investment (FDI) by the end of July, with foreign-invested enterprises (FIE) contributing 10 percent of jobs in cities and towns, 20 percent of fiscal revenue and nearly half the value of imports and exports. Chinese outbound investment had also climbed to $1.88 trillion, with investment in Belt and Road countries reaching more than $80 billion over the past five years.
"Foreign direct investment into and outbound direct investment from China has not only promoted continuous growth of the Chinese economy, but also made significant contributions to the world economy," said Deputy China International Trade Representative Wang Shouwen, who is also the Vice Minister of the Ministry of Commerce, at the 2018 International Investment Forum during CIFIT.
According to the Report on Foreign Investment in China 2018 released during CIFIT, the number of projects by Chinese FIEs approved annually in the initial stage of reform and opening up was only 300, with an annual investment of nearly $600 million. In 1984, the number of new FIEs exceeded 1,000. By the end of 2017, the number of such enterprises reached about 900,000.
China has ranked first among developing countries in the utilization of foreign investment for 26 consecutive years. Moreover, in the first seven months of 2018, China attracted $76.1 billion in FDI, an increase of 5.5 percent year on year.
The continuous growth of the number of FIEs and the value of FDI can be attributed to improvements in opening up and the utilization of foreign investment.
China has continuously lowered market entrance threshold, implementing the pre-establishment national treatment and a negative list. The State Council Information Office released several measures on June 8 with the goal of utilizing foreign investment effectively to promote high-quality economic growth, announcing that pre-establishment national treatment and a negative list will be launched nationwide.
"China has revised and issued new versions of special management measures relating to foreign investment in pilot free trade zones in 2018. It has also steadily optimized its opening up policy and business environment, made more efforts to protect intellectual property rights and focused on protecting the legitimate rights of foreign investors," said Cao Jianming, Vice Chairperson of the Standing Committee of the 13th National People's Congress, at CIFIT.
In April 2018, President Xi Jinping announced at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference China's main measures for further opening up and new measures for lowering the market entrance threshold by a large margin and creating a more attractive investment environment, vowing that China will not stop opening up but will only open wider.
"China will continue to lower the threshold of foreign investment access, attract more foreign investment, continue to optimize the domestic investment environment, protect the legitimate rights of foreign enterprises and promote fair competition," said Wang. "Meanwhile, it will push ahead with the Belt and Road Initiative, propel Chinese enterprises to go global and register coordinated development of two-way investment."
During the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), China signed governmental memoranda of understanding (MoU) with 28 African countries and the African Union related to the Belt and Road Initiative. By September 6, China had signed MoU with 37 African countries and the African Union, representing 70 percent of the 53 African countries attending the Beijing Summit.
African countries were invited to pursue global investment at CIFIT. Officials from investment sectors in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique and Zambia took the opportunity to hold investment promotional events to introduce Africa's development advantages and its potential in terms of rich natural resources, great market opportunities and an abundant young labor force, to global merchants.
Official data showed that Chinese companies' investment in Africa totaled $3.1 billion in 2017, increasing by nearly 40 times from 2003. Chinese investment in Africa has also gradually expanded to cover architecture, mining, manufacturing, technology, geological exploration, real estate, finance, wholesale and retail as well as agriculture sectors. By the end of 2017, Chinese investment in Africa had exceeded $100 billion, covering most African countries. Besides state-owned enterprises, Chinese private enterprises have also invested in Africa at a quicker pace, gradually becoming major investors in African countries.
During the FOCAC Beijing Summit, Xi stressed that the Belt and Road Initiative should be aligned with the development strategies of African countries. Guracha A. Bidu, a representative of the Kenya Investment Authority agreed. "Kenya welcomes investment that's in line with our country's national conditions. As one of the targeted countries of the Partnership and Investment for Growth in Africa project, Kenya hopes to attract Chinese investment in more fields," Bidu told Beijing Review.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is now the third largest trading partner of China, while China is its largest trading partner. Moreover, within China's three largest trading partners—the United States, the European Union and ASEAN—the trade between China and ASEAN has seen the fastest growth.
"In the trade and bilateral investment between China and Belt and Road countries, China-ASEAN trade and investment ranks first," said Xu Ningning, Executive Director of the China-ASEAN Business Council.
Statistics show that China-ASEAN trade grew by 18.6 percent in the first half of 2018. Last year, trade value between the two parties exceeded $500 billion, with bilateral investment reaching $200 billion.
"In Belt and Road countries, China's four largest trading partners are in ASEAN. The countries are strongly complementary with China with various trade and investment options. Capacity cooperation is a significant part of the cooperation and also our priority," said Xu.
Both China and ASEAN are actively promoting industrial upgrading to propel economic growth through industrial restructuring. In 2016, the two parties signed a joint statement on capacity cooperation.
"Capacity cooperation can promote China's industrial restructuring and regional industrial upgrading and enable the country to cope with new changes brought on by China-U.S. trade tensions," said Xu.
In terms of promoting China-ASEAN industrial cooperation, Xu pointed out that relevant authorities need to make respective industrial policies and plans more integrated and better coordinated. The role of industrial commerce associations should be given full play so that Chinese enterprises can gain footholds in ASEAN markets, while industrial zones should be improved.
CIFIT invited the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies as well as investment promotion organizations, government officials in charge of FDI policies and strategies, representatives from private enterprises and experts from more than 100 countries and regions to the event.
"CIFIT serves as a bridge for China to improve cooperation with the rest of the world for common development and constitutes an important gateway for China's opening up," said Wang.
Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo
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