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Curtain ready to rise on landmark import expo

By Andrew Moody | China Daily | Updated: 2018-11-02 09:28
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Major opportunity

People walk past signs for the China International Import Expo in Shanghai's Lujiazui area. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Mary Ma, general secretary in Shanghai for leading independent think tank the Center for China and Globalization, believes the expo can be compared with the Great Exhibition staged in London in the middle of the 19th century, and is a major opportunity for importers to showcase their products.

"Many have said it provides a 'six plus 365 opportunity' - you exhibit at the show for six days and then you can sell online for 365 days. This is particularly the case with November 11 (Singles Day - China's equivalent to Black Friday in the US - when online goods are heavily discounted) coming up," she said.

Ma, who returned to China last year after working in Chicago for the International Trade Centre in Illinois on promoting exports to the country, said the purchasing power of younger people in China is something of a phenomenon.

"The one thing I noticed when I came back was the number of 20-to 30-year-olds in the shopping malls of Shanghai and Beijing. This is a huge market and I am not sure if the foreign brands do their best to reach it, particularly online."

Joseph Healy, CEO at specialist lender Judo Capital in Melbourne, Australia, and author of Chinese Firms Going Global: Can They Succeed?, said the changing nature of China's imports is beginning to have an effect on traditional resource exporters such as Australia.

"It used to be just an exporter of raw materials, but that is shifting. China's growing middle class is a wonderful opportunity for Australia and New Zealand's dairy products, wines and other products," he said.

"On a political level, however, Australia has been pathetic in terms of engaging with this opportunity and has come across at times as quite disrespectful."

Depoux, at Roland Berger, believes the expo will be a major opportunity for some of the countries - along with the Belt and Road Initiative - who have not exported to China before.

"I am thinking, in particular, of Central Asia and agricultural exports, but this might also be an opportunity for some African and South American countries to try to establish a market position in China," he said.

However, he insists that while this market has huge potential, it also has its unique challenges.

"It is a very complex, fragmented and very fast-moving market. It often changes so fast that by the time you are thinking about moving in, it has changed again."

With trade tensions escalating, many expo participants hope the event will demonstrate the importance of open trade.

Wang, at AstraZeneca, is confident that it will send an important signal.

"We greatly admire the foresight of the Chinese leadership in uniting the world ever more closely by hosting such an international event. China is an important engine for global economic growth and prosperity, and I am pleased the Chinese government supports globalization and free trade," he said.

Wang Huiyao, president and founder of the Center for China and Globalization, agrees that the expo is a major opportunity for companies worldwide.

"China wants to buy more. It doesn't want a trade surplus. This event is very significant and represents a major shopping opportunity for the Chinese," he said.

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