The first ever China International Import Expo (CIIE) kicks off in Shanghai today. President Xi Jinping attends the opening ceremony and delivers a keynote speech at the ceremony.
The China International Import Expo (CIIE), the world’s first import-themed national expo, kicks off on Monday. More than 3,000 enterprises from some 130 countries and regions will exhibit their products, taking this as a premier opportunity to enter or expand their presence on the Chinese market.
But there are still fault-finding reports about the event. Some say sarcastically that no state leader or government head from the G7 will attend the expo. Some even link the CIIE with the China-US trade war in spite of the fact that China announced the CIIE in May 2017 at the Belt and Road Initiative on International Cooperation, before the trade war hadn’t started.
Why do these media always want to dig out some political ends from the CIIE, which is in any way a good thing for global trade as well as the exports of Western countries?
CIIE is being held to serve enterprises and exporters worldwide, not Western leaders. Japan ranks first in terms of the number of participating companies, followed by South Korea, the US, Australia, Germany and Italy. This fully demonstrates how much passion companies from developed countries hold toward the expo and heralds the expo’s success.
If more countries and regions with a trade surplus can host import expos, that will promote global trade balance. Those with a trade deficit should not blame others, but encourage their enterprises to grasp every opportunity to promote their products. Sometimes the problem lies in information asymmetry and an import expo can provide a platform for suppliers and buyers to communicate at a low cost.
China has long had a trade surplus and too much of it is not helpful for the country. More imports of high-quality products can help Chinese to upgrade their consumption and advance the production. The inherent drive for hosting CIIE is to translate part of China’s foreign exchange reserve into social progress.
China started very early by holding trade fairs in Guangzhou and later became a leading exporter in the world. Now we are holding the import expo in the hope of promoting our imports.
Tangled in a trade war with the US, China could have shut US companies out of the expo as a way of pressuring, but it has acted the other way around. By contrast, the US now thinks everything about the Chinese economy is wrong and whatever China does is a trick. The two countries differ in their visions.
We believe that the CIIE, if held regularly, will help China enhance the quality of its imports and balance its imports and exports. China doesn’t need to care what the outside world thinks of the expo, nor should it intentionally enhance the volume of transactions as a proof of kindness.
As long as the Chinese market grows larger, CIIE will attract more attention and will be remembered in world trade history as a positive event.
Countries, businesses look forward to CIIE
As the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) nears, officials and entrepreneurs around the world aim to seize the opportunity to explore the Chinese market, voicing greater confidence in China’s further opening up.
“We understand the CIIE as … showcasing China’s greater openness to importers. These are all moves in the right direction,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “We support what China is doing to expand imports and address global trade imbalances.”
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite told Xinhua that “the expo is a ‘win-win’ event for both, China and the world, as it provides new opportunities for cooperation, helps companies across the globe enter the Chinese market and paves the way for China to satisfy its growing demand for high-quality products.”
Pakistan is confronted with current account deficit and the CIIE “is a great opportunity for Pakistan to have a pavilion where we will be exhibiting our exports,” Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said.
Khan hailed China’s reform and opening up policy which provides Chinese industries a better environment to compete in international trade. “China has set a good example,” he said.
Madagascar will showcase products such as vanilla, cocoa beans, coffee beans and minerals at the CIIE. China offers a great opportunity for everyone, and everyone must know how to seize this opportunity, Minister of Tourism Jean Brunelle Razafintsiandraofa told Xinhua.
“Australia thinks it (the CIIE) is a great celebration of … the economic contribution that China makes to the region and the world. That is why we’re delighted that some 180 Australian businesses and brands are participating,” said Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham.
“We are in global markets, we are all together and we want to cooperate,” Israeli Scientific Minister Ofir Akunis said, adding that it is a “very good idea” and the “right way” that China hosts the CIIE where people from all over the world will meet meet on cooperation in the future.
“I think (the CIIE) is a great opportunity to show the players in the global economic environment the opening of China to world trade, and it is also a contribution to the growth of the global market,” Marco Tronchetti Provera, CEO of Italian-Chinese tyre maker Pirelli, told Xinhua.
The CIIE, a significant move by the Chinese government to further open the Chinese market, has attracted about 2,800 exhibitors from over 130 countries and regions. Economic and trade exchanges are bringing more benefits to all sides.
“We are going to Shanghai to represent more than 89 of our members who are able to export a range of products (to China),” Sandile Ndlovu, Executive Director of the South African Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Export Council, said. “China could be one of our biggest customers as there is so much potential for trade with China.”
Marathon Ginseng, a U.S. Wisconsin-based ginseng grower, will have a stall at the CIIE. It registered for the expo the first time it heard of the fair.
“It is a big event in China,” Jiang Mingtao, founder of Marathon Ginseng, told Xinhua. “We hope to enhance the reputation of ginseng produced in the state of Wisconsin … and let more Chinese consumers know our products – Global Times
When realities hit the ‘Road’
JUST 11 weeks into his election victory, Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan has already had to accomplish a task that seriously tests his diplomatic skills.
More than that, it is a task that would tax his diplomatic creativity. And that is in addition to the dire economic challenges he already faces at home.
Confronted with multiple needs and demands, it has taken some time for the new Government to form a Cabinet. Pakistan’s economy has taken some beating. Imran’s opposition party won the August election on a tide of change, against an incumbent party in government whose leaders had been charged with corruption.
Worse, the novice Prime Minister also has to contend with unfavourable terms that the previous government had agreed to with China in its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects.
Imran is in Beijing this weekend to try to negotiate those terms.
He is a self-confessed fan of Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Even so, he could not possibly have planned to follow in Dr Mahathir’s footsteps so closely. Imran’s toughest task is to present his case in China so persuasively as to avoid a cynical sense of déjà vu among China’s leaders. But what can this new Prime Minister say that has not already been said by his much more experienced Malaysian counterpart, to any greater effect?
One theme Imran’s delegation may be pursuing is explaining to Beijing the plight currently facing Pakistan: in its dire economic straits, Islamabad has to choose between negotiating terms with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or renegotiating terms with China.
Neither option is ideal by any means. Going with the IMF may even be a worse debt trap than China has ever been accused of fostering. The fact that Imran is in Beijing shows that the lesser evil may be to renegotiate the BRI terms, such as reducing the costs to Pakistan by a couple of billion US dollars.
If Pakistan opts to go with China, it would prove that any conceivable terms with the IMF would be more onerous and risky. Both the new Finance Ministry and Imran’s task force are leaning that way.
Alternatively the BRI projects could be deferred, but would China agree? Much of that remains to be seen, or heard, in the following days. For now, it is important to remember that such situations are prone to misinterpretation and misrepresentation – including of the deliberate kind.
Predictably, the largely Western international media have already portrayed Pakistan as “saying no” to the China-led BRI.
But why would Pakistan ever do that? The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a vital segment – indeed, the flagship – of the BRI is of far greater value and importance to Pakistan than to China.
Whatever strategic or symbolic significance the US$62 bil (RM258bil) CPEC may have or be said to have for China, it is dwarfed by the immediate and tangible benefits for Pakistan’s development.
It is situated fully and squarely in Pakistan, not China, covering much of Pakistani territory and set to boost such sectors as energy, telecommunications, tourism, trade and transportation. Pakistan’s Railways Ministry calls CPEC the “backbone” of the country.
Its strategic value to China is access to the Arabian Sea at the corridor’s south-western corner in the port of Gwadar. It is access that China does not need now, and may or may not need sometime in the future. China is comfortable investing heavily in Pakistan’s development because the two countries have a special relationship in South Asia. Western observers who still consider Pakistan a Western ally need to have their perspective of Asia updated. Casting Islamabad as a US ally is merely harking back to the 1950s era of the US-led South-East Asia Treaty Organisation (Seato) in the early phase of the Cold War.
Times have moved on, as have China and Pakistan. Their leaders have repeatedly declared their respective countries “all-weather friends” – perhaps even allies.
To India, China and Pakistan have no common border, their link being only Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). The territory is bitterly disputed with India following the 1963 China-Pakistan boundary agreement.
Controversy with India flared again two days ago when a bus service was launched linking Lahore with Kashghar in Xinjiang, with the route running through contested PoK.
The term “debt trap” in reference to allegedly risky China-led projects was not coined by China, Pakistan or even Sri Lanka. It was coined by an Indian economist.
If any doubt still lingers over the China-Pakistan relationship, BRI cooperation continues between them and may even expand. Both countries are now seeking to extend CPEC into Afghanistan.
On a stellar scale, China helped Pakistan launch two satellites this year. By 2020, Pakistan hopes to send its first astronaut into space under China’s space programme.
India’s problem with the BRI is essentially its passage through territory disputed with Pakistan. That has now been conflated with what is said to be “Pakistan’s problem” with the BRI.
Western pundits in particular tend to draw such hasty and hazy conclusions since they accord with preconceived US notions of a rising China threat. Such misperceptions are not only wrong but misleading.
Asian countries have a different perspective because a rising China as Asia’s main economy also means a rising Asia. It is the proverbial rising tide that lifts all boats in this region of the continent.
Even the classic anecdotal “debt trap,” Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port, was never quite the disaster its detractors claimed it to be. That controversy was built up principally between Sri Lanka’s contending political parties and their different positions on China at the time.
Now that Mahinda Rajapaksa – prime mover of the Hambantota project and defeated in the 2015 presidential race – has returned as Prime Minister nine days ago, punditry should be buzzing.
The point, however, is to arrive at reasoned analysis away from wild speculation. China is a rational player whatever the objective may be, so that a rational approach can only help understanding.
For its part, China should also empathise with its BRI partners in the conditions they find themselves in. Financially strapped and economically challenged, nations that wish to work with the BRI are constrained by factors beyond their control.
First, these countries may have new governments that have inherited a broken economy from their predecessors. Much urgent repair work first needs to be done. Second, BRI projects are largely about massive infrastructure, usually the most expensive public projects to be undertaken by any government. Third, much of the BRI runs through developing countries and regions that may not have the largest financial resources even at the best of times.
How will Pakistan’s appeal to China for revised terms hold out? Prime Minister Imran Khan should be able to win some concessions.
After all, China has helped other Asian countries before in times of need, even at some expense to itself. When the 1997-98 Asian Financial Crisis struck, China postponed its scheduled currency revaluation to absorb some of the cost so that the afflicted countries do not go under from excessive loan repayments. Such a generous gesture from Beijing would not be out of character, whether the beneficiary is Pakistan or Malaysia.
After all, each boasts a special relationship with Beijing.
By bunn nagara
Martin Jacques – Big Picture: China’s Belt & Road Initiative will change the world as we know it