Beijing praises its own ‘import expo’ despite snub from US
- Chinese President Xi Jinping confirmed to attend and give speech
- Show designed to paint China as a buyer, not only a seller in the world
Politicians and business executives from about 150 countries have signed up for Shanghai’s international import fair next month, despite the US refusing to send any senior government officials.
Senior Chinese commerce officials told a media briefing in Beijing on Monday that the China International Import Expo had won acclaim and support from most of the world’s major trading nations.
But no state leader or government head from the G7 will be attending, and major trading partners from South Korea to Australia will not be sending heavyweights to the event.
The media briefing also confirmed that China’s President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan would host a banquet on November 4, ahead of the opening ceremony, for attending foreign state leaders and senior government officials.
According to China's foreign ministry, guests of honour include Czech President Milos Zeman, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta will attend as well.
Other foreign leaders include El Salvador's President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, Swiss president Alain Berset, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly and Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze.
The UK’s delegation will include a group of 30 British firms led by Prince Andrew and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox.
France will send a delegation led by its Minister of Agriculture and Food Didier Guillaume.
The China International Import Expo was announced last year as part of Beijing’s efforts to show the rest of the world that a richer China can be good for global business – the event is dubbed as one of the “four major diplomatic events at home” for 2018.
However, the ongoing trade war between China and the US, its largest trading partner, has cast a long shadow over the event, which will be held in Shanghai between November 5 and 10.
Since July, the US has imposed tariffs on US$250 billion worth of Chinese imports while China has retaliated by levying tariffs on US$110 billion worth of US imports.
China’s Ministry of Commerce, which is in charge of the fair, however, is not discouraged, and said more than 3,000 firms would be taking part.
Fu Ziying, a commerce vice-minister who is also an international trade representative, said the event would become a vehicle to promote economic globalisation.
“China International Import Expo will become an open cooperation platform for countries around the world to display national image and conduct international trade,” he said.
Indonesia, Vietnam, Pakistan, South Africa, Egypt, Russia, UK, Hungary, Germany, Canada, Brazil and Mexico will have their own exhibition halls in the fair, Fu said.
Wang Bingnan, another vice-minister of commerce, told the same media briefing the expo had “won praise from the international community … and won support from major countries”.
According to the expo’s official website, attending business leaders include Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates, Terry Gou of iPhone maker Foxconn, and HSBC group chairman Mark Tucker, as well as Xiaomi founder Lei Jun and Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.
While the real effect of the week-long fair in boosting Chinese imports may be limited, the event sends a strong signal that China is willing to buy more from other countries – not only raw materials and crude oil but also consumer products that in particular appeal to the country’s 400 million “middle-income” residents.
China’s total imports in the first nine months of 2018 surged 20 per cent from a year earlier to US$1.6 trillion. At the same time, the Chinese market has proved to be a tough place to crack for foreign brands due to its vastness, fierce competition and heavy regulations.