The China International Export Expo and the trade signal that China is sending to the world

After much anticipation, the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) was opened in Shanghai earlier this month, by Chinese president Xi Jinping. The 5-day expo saw more than 3,000 companies from over 130 countries attend, securing a reported $57.8 billion in trade deals.

Now, nearly a month on from the show, SinoScan UK takes a look at the initial success of CIIE: 2018 and the potential implications for trade in China and further afield.

CIE: 2018 overview

The smart manufacturing industry came out on top for deals, securing a reported US$16.5 billion during the show. This was followed by food and agriculture (US$12.7 billion), and the automotive industry (US$12 billion). Meanwhile, deals agreed for the automobile sector goods hit $11.99 billion, while clothing and consumer goods reached $3.37 billion.

East African coffee chain, Java House, for example, successfully signed a distribution agreement with Shanghai-based logistics company Greechain International Ltd at the show, in the hope of expanding their customer-base to China.

Other stand out moments from the show included the world’s smallest heart pacemaker from American manufacturer Medtronic and Singapore’s eco-toilets – which turn waste into fertiliser in just 24 hours.

Medtronic's Micra pacemaker

Westcom Technology's bio-toilet

British brands largely welcomed the exhibition, with UK Trade Secretary Liam Fox describing it as “a unique platform to connect with Chinese businesses, investors and consumers”. Exhibitors included automotive giants Bentley, who displayed their new £164,350 third-generation Continental GT model at the show, as well as other well-known British brands, such as Kenwood and AstraZeneca.

Do the numbers stack up?

While the numbers certainly appear impressive for the show’s first year – as with any trade show, it’s worth taking these figures from the organisers with a pinch of salt. What’s more, many of the deals made won’t be concrete yet – making it difficult to determine how many deals the show will have actually secured in the long run. And when compared to China’s most well-known trade show – Canton Fair – the numbers still fall US$2 billion short.

Why is this expo so significant?

Described as a “cooperation platform” in which countries are invited to take part in international trade, many believe that the Chinese government hopes that this show will help ease historic trade tension – especially with the USA – creating a more open relationship for worldwide trade.

"CIIE is a major initiative by China to pro-actively open up its market to the world," Mr Xi said in his opening speech at the exhibition.

During the opening ceremony, Chinese president Xi Jinping also promised to lower tariffs, broaden foreign market access, and increase imports from overseas – which was welcomed by some, but also criticised by others, who note that such promises have been made before with no real results.

The future of trade for China

Earlier this year, the Chinese government released a report highlighting its plans to increase imports to $2.5 trillion (£1.95trn) over the next five years, in a bid to satisfy ever-increasing domestic demand and contribute more to global trade.

Also highlighted in the report was China’s commitment to boost quality imports and build platforms to facilitate these long-term goals.

This year’s exhibition and report have come at a crucial time for China, where economic growth is slowing as a result of growing tensions with America. Talks are currently taking place between the two countries and while the issues are far from over yet, it’ll be interesting to see how global trade is impacted over the next few months as a result.

Overall, it certainly seems that CIIE’s first year has been successful in boosting trade; however, if China really want to prove themselves to the world as a co-operative world trader, it’ll take more than an exhibition to do so. Ultimately, concrete reforms are needed.

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