China’s first global import fair signals shift to consumer-based growth

Some of the country’s biggest e-commerce companies will be at the China International Import Expo to help connect foreign suppliers with buyers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 April, 2018, 3:55pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 April, 2018, 10:17pm

For six decades the Canton trade fair has provided a stage for Chinese exporters to showcase their wares to buyers from all corners of the globe.

Now, as Beijing attempts to shift towards an economic growth model based on domestic consumption, it’s the turn of the international brands to display their products and services, at the inaugural China International Import Expo.

And to help bridge the gap between foreign suppliers and consumers, some of the country’s biggest e-commerce companies will be out in force for the six-day event in Shanghai, scheduled for November.

Alibaba Group Holding’s cross-border business-to-business platform, 1688.COM, NetEase’s, RED and, are among those accredited as “permanent exhibition and trade platforms” for the fair, according to a list seen by the Post. Also in the first batch of firms to sign up is the Hong Kong trade, supply-chain management and retail major, Fung Group, with its Explorium project.

Shanghai expo is fair ground to test policies to spur domestic consumption, says expo veteran

The fair has been promoted by President Xi Jinping as a key part of broader efforts to open up the mainland’s markets, facilitating the import of more high-quality products from overseas to meet domestic demand.

On Tuesday, Xi reiterated the importance of the Expo in boosting imports, stressing that it is “no ordinary event” at the Boao Forum. He had first announced it at the Belt and Road Summit in Beijing last May.

Xi’s latest remarks come at a time when tensions between China and the United States risk developing into full-blown trade war.

“The fair, a signal that China wants to increase imports, reflects China’s goodwill and stance to adjust its trade structure to redress the trade balance,” said Wang Youxin, a researcher at the BOC Institute of International Finance.

China’s trade surplus with US hits record high in 2017 amid rising tensions

The government is keen that the event’s reach will extend well beyond the six days, billing it as a “6+365” model to boost imports to the world’s second largest economy all year round.

Yan Se, an economics professor at Peking University, said the import fair is in line with the nation’s aim of moving towards domestic consumption as the main economic driver.

While demand for crude oil and iron ore have remained strong – China is still the world’s largest importer of these raw materials – the country is home to a potential 1.3 billion shoppers who have been buying more wines, cosmetics, chocolates and avocados.

China is now the biggest trading partner of more than 120 countries and it imported US$1.84 trillion worth of commodities last year, 16 per cent more than in 2016.

A spate of big-name foreign companies have already agreed to exhibit at the fair, including Emerson, Dow Chemical, Dupont and Whirlpool from the US, French cosmetics major L’Oreal and the Dutch electronics giant Philips.

About 150,000 buyers are expected to visit the fair, which will feature a high-level trade forum, networking opportunities for Chinese importers and foreign suppliers, and a “country pavilion” for overseas governments to showcase their trade and investments.

Supported by the World Trade Organisation and the UN, it will run from November 5 to 10 at Shanghai’s National Exhibition and Convention Centre.

Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.