Expo promoting China-Asean trade deal swamped by demand
Leu Siew Ying in Nanning
The first expo promoting the free-trade agreement between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations attracted interest from more than 4,000 exhibitors, requiring twice the number of booths originally available.
The annual China-Asean Expo officially opens at the new Nanning International Convention and Exhibition Centre in Nanning , Guangxi , today.
It features 2,506 booths covering 60,000 sq metres. The organiser originally planned for only 2,063 booths, but found space for an extra 443 to help meet demand after the overwhelming response.
The final number of booths still fell short of meeting the needs of all exhibitors and many Asean companies, which had taken a while to decide whether to take part, were turned away at the last minute.
'It's a problem of who comes first. We had to persuade many local companies [who had registered early] to give up their booths to Asean companies,' Ministry of Commerce spokesman Chong Quan said.
The China-Asean Free-Trade Area will initially include the six original members of Asean - Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand - and be set up by 2010. It will eventually build a potential market of 1.7 billion people with a combined gross domestic product of US$2 trillion and a trade volume of $1.23 trillion.
The lesser-developed Asean members - Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam - will join in 2015. China's exports to Asean are forecast to grow by 55 per cent by 2010, while Asean's exports to the mainland will grow by 48 per cent.
Asean countries are also expecting China to increase its investment in their region. China's cumulative investment in Asean as of June amounted to US$1 billion, well down on the $34 billion Asean invested in the mainland.
A Singaporean diplomat said he expected that small and medium-sized Chinese enterprises that wanted to expand globally would use Asean as a springboard, while an Indonesian diplomat cautioned that China could not expect to just export finished products to Asean and import raw materials in return.
'We want them to invest in value-added processing industries,' the diplomat said.