By Shi Guang, Wang Fengjuan，translated by Hou Weili
Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the opening of the world’s first import-themed national-level expo in Shanghai on Monday, calling it a “trail-blazing” move in the history of international trade development.
A total of 172 countries, regions and international organizations from five continents will showcase their development achievements and international image at the first China International Import Expo (CIIE). More than 3,600 companies from different countries will hold discussions and seek common development with over 400,000 purchasers from China and overseas.
As neighbors of China, 10 members of ASEAN including Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia will all attend CIIE. Among them, Indonesia and Vietnam are Guests of Honor. What opportunities will this first CIIE bring to ASEAN members in terms of exports to China?
Benefits of Proximity
“ASEAN countries regard the state-level expo specializing in importing as a golden opportunity to them. With geographical proximity to China, they are favored in sharing the benefits brought by China’s opening-up. Safeguarding multilateralism and international trade rules is in line with the common interests of China and ASEAN,” Xu Ningning, executive president of China-ASEAN Business Council, told China Report ASEAN. As China’s neighbors, ASEAN countries are usually the first to learn and be affected by China’s development and changes. The CIIE will further upgrade the trade and economic cooperation between China and ASEAN, Xu added.
With large market potential and preferential policies, especially the zero-tariff policy, in the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area, products from ASEAN countries are able to enter Chinese market in a fast and easy manner, according to Xu.
China is a manufacturing powerhouse with its products selling across the world. It is also a marketplace of consuming goods and services offered by global businesses. The consumer demands in China are on the rise. For example, Chinese people are drinking more and more coffee. The production of instant coffee needs two coffee species–Robusta and Arabica– which are respectively grown in ASEAN countries and China. Chinese instant coffee makers have been importing large quantity of Robusta coffee beans from Vietnam and other ASEAN countries.
“Among world’s largest producers of Robusta coffee beans, ASEAN countries like Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos and the Philippines look forward to China’s expansion of imports,” added Xu. The CIIE will create more opportunities for ASEAN countries to expand exports to China. Businesses are expected to showcase their competitiveness to reap the opportunities.
Enabling ASEAN to Share China’s Market Dividends
“China and ASEAN countries all benefit from free trade. Safeguarding multilateralism and international trade rules is in line with the common interests of China and ASEAN, which is also conducive to expanding regional economic cooperation and upgrading industrial value chains on both sides,” noted Xu Ningning. “Against the backdrop of profoundly changing world order and ongoing economic globalization, China and ASEAN become increasingly intertwined with each other.”
ASEAN has been China’s third largest trade partner for several consecutive years. The trade volume in 2017 hit a record high of US$514.8 billion, up by 13.8 percent from the previous year. Instead of eyeing for trade surplus, China has been working to narrow the trade gaps with ASEAN countries like Indonesia and Vietnam. Over the past five years, China, with over US$1 trillion imports from ASEAN countries, has emerged as one of the most crucial export destinations for ASEAN. China is willing to share its domestic market with ASEAN and enable people of those countries to benefit more from cooperation with China.
How to further improve ASEAN businesses’ exports to China? Xu Ningning offered a solution: “The governments and business councils can better play their roles in launching training programs on foreign exports for ASEAN businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, so that they can enhance their exporting capability by developing products catering to Chinese market.” CIIE and specialized trade fairs will offer opportunities for ASEAN enterprises to enter Chinese market, Xu noted.