CAEXPO’s increasing stature reflects growth, progress in trade agreement

|     Achong Tanjong     |

OVER the past 14 years, the China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) has kept close pace with the development of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA) in different stages, including the commencement, establishment and upgrading of the FTA, to continue with the expansion of the value chain of the expo and its sideline events.

The fields of cooperation of that the CAEXPO covers spans a wide range of areas, from trade, investment and finance, to customs, logistics, industrial parks, science and technology, and people-to-people exchanges. All these bring tangible benefits to the businesses and peoples of both China and ASEAN.

Reiterating these points was spokesman for China’s Ministry of Commerce Gao Feng during yesterday’s news briefing for the 15th CAEXPO and 15th China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (CABIS), which will open today.

The CAEXPO is an international trade event organised by the People’s Government of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and co-sponsored by the governments of China, the 10 ASEAN member countries and the ASEAN Secretariat.

This year’s trade fair, normally held annually alongside the CABIS, is particularly notable due to the fact that 2018 marks the 15th anniversaries of both the ACFTA strategic partnership and the CAEXPO, and also happens to be the China-ASEAN Year of Innovation.

Spokesman for China’s Ministry of Commerce Gao Feng speaks during the briefing. – ACHONG TANJONG

Themed ‘Jointly Building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, Forging the China-ASEAN Community of Innovation’, the 15th CAEXPO and 15th CABIS will feature a host of exhibitions, forums and various exchange programmes on China-ASEAN bilateral cooperation in areas such as economy, trade, innovation, production capacity and a number of other fields.

According to Gao, the two events are meant to serve as a platform for China and ASEAN to deepen friendly cooperation and advance the Belt and Road strategy “to bring about win-win outcomes for both parties”.

A host of high-profile figures will attend the events, including ministerial officials, representatives of the ASEAN Secretariat and other international organisations, diplomatic envoys, presidents of industry associations and chambers of commerce, as well as renowned entrepreneurs and celebrities from China, ASEAN and other countries.

The CAEXPO’s appeal and stature is growing year on year. As much as 40 per cent of the participating Chinese vendors are repeat exhibitors, with this year’s fair attracting several new exhibitors. Eight ASEAN member countries – Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – notably have chartered independent halls to showcase their own products and services. “Applications for booths to participate in this year’s CAEXPO by companies from the non-CAFTA economies are 43 per cent more than our planned allocation,” said Gao.

Among these applicants are 114 companies from 19 countries which are part of the Belt and Road initiative, including Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, Australia, Germany, Italy and Spain, who will join a pool of 2,780 companies showcasing their services and products at the 15th CAEXPO, a rise of 2.6 per cent from the previous event’s total.

Included in this list are a number of Fortune 500 companies, industrial giants, and renowned private companies. The participating countries will not only be showcasing their own cutting-edge industries, as well as signature and technological products, but also introduce their industrial parks, latest investment incentives and services.

Gao highlighted that the 15th CAEXPO has attracted 112 missions consisting of buyers or investors, 15 per cent more than the previous session. More than 11,000 trade visitors are also arranged to join the fair and its sideline events, up by 10 per cent from the previous edition.

Among them are 700 buyers from far-off countries such as Tanzania, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, India, Russia, Ukraine, UK and other non-CAFTA economies.

Diverse exchange activities – including 90 trade and investment promotion events – to create more business opportunities to fortify the CAFTA and strengthen the Belt and Road initiative are also planned.

“Events to commemorate the 15th anniversaries of the China-ASEAN strategic partnership and the CAEXPO will also take place during the duration of the fair, including the Friendship Planting by Chinese and ASEAN leaders, Photo Gallery, Achievements Exhibition, China-ASEAN Entrepreneurs Association Activities, and Networking Meeting for Permanent Representatives to ASEAN,” Gao said.

“We will host the 6th China-ASEAN Technology Transfer and Collaborative Innovation Conference, the China-ASEAN Forum on High-tech Zone Cooperation, the China-ASEAN Block Chain Innovation and Cooperation Forum, the Business Networking for Traditional Chinese Medicine and Healthcare Innovations, as well as the Promotion Conference on Chinese and Overseas Chinese Entrepreneurship and Innovation,” Gao continued, adding that the events will showcase the achievements of China and ASEAN in innovation and the developing trends, as well as lend new impetus to bilateral cooperation between the two groups.

The Ministry of Commerce spokesman also said that China will make use of the resources of several expo-participating cross-border e-commerce players in the area of international sourcing and selling of products and services.

“We will provide new channels for Chinese and ASEAN businesses to explore each other’s markets. ASEAN member countries like Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand as well as Australia will host sourcing meetings or business environment seminars based on their own demands and needs,” he said.

“We will continue to advance the international economic and production capacity cooperation by arranging a theme exhibition and holding the events like the Langcang-Mekong Production Capacity Cooperation Forum and the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor Forum, to improve relevant working mechanisms and put those projects into place.”

The China-ASEAN Entrepreneurs Association, with the theme ‘Uniting the Private Sector, Drawing Private Capital’ meanwhile, Gao added, “will arrange a series of activities to be participated by 50 eminent entrepreneurs from China’s private sector, and industry players from the 10 ASEAN member countries will join these activities to share their insights into the two-way investment between China and ASEAN to push ahead with efforts to elevate the two parties’ bilateral cooperation in production capacity, connectivity and building the Belt and Road initiative.

“More targetted trade and project matching events will be also be hosted,” Gao said.

The 15th CABIS, on the other hand, will see the hosting of the Roundtable Meeting between the 1st Belt and Road Forum on New Economic Belt Development, the China-ASEAN Business Leaders’ Forum, the 1st Belt and Road Forum for Youth Leaders, the China-ASEAN Commercial Laws Cooperation Seminar, as well as the China-ASEAN Forum on Cross-border E-commerce Development.

“These events will help the Chinese and ASEAN business communities strengthen bilateral cooperation in economy, trade, investment, connectivity, production capacity and many other fields, thus aiding in the upgrading of the CAFTA and bringing more benefits for the businesses and peoples of both sides,” Gao said.