Endless Reform and Opening Up
At the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in 2017, President Xi Jinping declared that China would host the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) in 2018. On many other diplomatic occasions, the country has also promoted the CIIE to the international community. In September, when the 2018 summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation was held in Beijing, China pledged to import more commodities, non-resource products in particular, from African countries to support African participation in the CIIE. China is welcoming least-developed African countries to participate in the event for free.
Clearly, the impending CIIE is not an expo in the traditional sense.
Exceptional Import Expo
The CIIE consists of three parts: Country Pavilion, Business Exhibition and Hongqiao International Trade Forum, integrating the World Expo method to display policies and commodities with the function of Davos World Economic Forum to discuss international trade trends.
The Country Pavilion focuses on displaying participating countries’ policies on trade and investment, aiming to facilitate mutual policy communication. The Business Exhibition is the major event featuring enterprises from overseas selling commodities produced abroad. Both the enterprises and the products they display represent advanced levels of their respective industries. The Hongqiao International Trade Forum will be held under the theme “Unleashing New Vigor in Global Trade, Creating a New Pattern for Open and Win-Win Cooperation,” with an eye on establishing a platform for exchange and communication on global economic and trade issues. The forum’s three parallel sessions will focus on “trade and opening up,” “trade and innovation” and “trade and investment.” Their topics are expected to go beyond trade issues and delve into global governance.
The CIIE is actually a venue for trade exchange featuring China taking the initiative to further open its market by greatly lowering the institutional transaction cost of imports to make contributions to building an open world economy.
The CIIE will last six days starting from November 5. How to design a “never-ending” expo with enduring influence has been a major consideration of organizers.
Firstly, “never-ending” refers to continuity. Rather than a one-off event, the CIIE will be held time and time again. For trading parties, the premise and foundation of a sustainable import expo lie in the consistent draw of exhibitors and purchasers. Exhibitors care most about easier access to the Chinese market and increased profits, while purchasers pay attention to whether they can efficiently get quality products at low prices. So, the first import expo has made extensive and meticulous preparations on items ranging from facilitating clearance to lowering transaction cost, displaying products efficiently and securing deals effectively. To guarantee smooth transactions, the CIIE set up a service platform for one-stop transactions, promoting a fusion of online and offline transactions. For example, the Shanghai trading delegation has set up four purchasing alliances including a cross-border import e-commerce alliance, a large retailers alliance, a comprehensive trading service providers alliance and an exhibiting services alliance, with an aim to facilitate accurate connections between Shanghai’s purchasers and the exhibitors. The CIIE also hopes to draw more purchasers from home and abroad to Shanghai to do business in the future. From this aspect, the import expo will become a permanent trading platform.
Secondly, the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai will continue to provide services after the CIIE by building the “6+365” One-Stop Trading Services Platform like DLG Import Commodities Center. Already, the country pavilions of New Zealand and Mongolia decided to participate in both the 6-day expo and the 365-day exhibitions. This enables displayed products to transform into commodities, allowing consumers to reach foreign quality products without going abroad.
Finally, for China, the CIIE’s overflow effects can constantly promote domestic reform and development, optimize economic structure and upgrade industries. Forty years ago when the country began its reform and opening up, China hoped to exchange market access for technology. But now China is opening its door to host the import expo in an effort to accelerate innovation-oriented development and industrial upgrading of domestic enterprises and constantly meet public aspiration for a better life.
Some newly established regulations and the adjustment of some rules have released dividends like tariff reductions. According to a report issued by the tariff committee of China’s State Council, since November 1, 2018, 1,585 taxable items have enjoyed lower most favored nation tariff rates, accounting for 19 percent of all of China’s taxable items. Since 2018, China has implemented four tax cuts, dropping the general tariff level to 7.5 percent from 9.8 percent in 2017. In fact, the Chinese government has spared no efforts to improve the business environment. A forerunner of China’s reform and opening up, Shanghai issued an action plan to quicken the pace to build an open economic system, which clarified and detailed measures for further opening financial and manufacturing sectors.
All in all, “never-ending” refers to the constant reform and development of China.
The author is director of the Institute for World Economy Studies under the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.