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The backstory: The China International Import Expo (CIIE) is a big annual trade event in Shanghai where companies from all over the world showcase their products to the massive Chinese market. This event is important in global trade, attracting participants from various industries and countries, including the US, Japan and Europe.
China's President Xi Jinping launched this expo in 2018 to promote China’s free trade and address concerns the international market had about China’s trade surplus with some nations. The COVID pandemic slowed things down for a few years, but last year, the CIIE managed to secure deals worth US$73.52 billion, a 3.9% increase from the previous year.
More recently: China hit a rough patch in its post-COVID recovery, mainly due to troubles in the real estate sector. Real estate is a big deal in the nation, making up around 30% of its GDP. But things started to look up in the third quarter. China's GDP increased by 4.9% in July and September compared to the previous year, which beat expectations. But it was a little slower than the growth from the previous quarter.
On the trade front, China has been facing a slowdown in imports throughout the year. But recent data from last month suggests that this downturn might be stabilizing.
The development: During the opening ceremony of the CIIE, which runs from November 5 - 10 this year, Premier Li Qiang announced China's commitment to expanding market access and boosting imports. It aims to reach US$17 trillion worth of imports in goods and services over the next five years. He also emphasized China’s pledge to open the economy to friendly foreign investment by removing some restrictions. Li also shared some success stories from the expo, highlighting an Afghan carpet maker and a Japanese pharmaceutical company.
This year, more than 3,400 companies are participating, with over 200 being regular attendees for six years. Notable countries like Australia and the US have sent delegations featuring companies like Micron Technology, Nestle, Burberry and L'Oreal. Although, the European Chamber of Commerce did have some criticism of the event on Friday, calling it a “political showcase” and calling for more tangible measures.
Li also expressed China’s intention to actively pursue joining the Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a significant trade agreement involving 12 countries. Taiwan, Ukraine, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Ecuador are also looking to join.
"No matter how the world changes, China's pace of opening up will never stall and its determination to share development opportunities with the world will never change," said China’s Premier Li Qiang.
"It's more a government affairs event, more a marketing event and there's been really little said on business. You can say CIIE has become more of a political showcase rather than a business event," Carlo D'Andrea, The European Union Chamber of Commerce’s vice president, told reporters at a briefing in Shanghai on Friday. "European businesses are becoming disillusioned as symbolic gestures take the place of tangible results needed to restore business confidence."
“There are enough positive signs in the recent data to suggest that the economy has turned a corner,” said analysts from Capital Economics in a research report last month, referring to China’s economy.
"It seems that all of that stimulus is finally beginning to take effect, with a broad beat from growth, retail sales, industrial production and unemployment," said Matt Simpson, senior market analyst at City Index in Brisbane.