Xi to trumpet China's 'open' markets at trade forum

Devin Lawrence
November 7, 2018

The Forum is particularly relevant because it will be held on the opening day of the International Import Expo of China, a big event of commercial promotion, business and investment that will bring together in Shanghai from November 5 to 10 Heads of State and Government, ministers, executive heads, entrepreneurs, industrial manufacturers, and agricultural producers from 130 countries.

At its core, the event is symbolic.

China has been the world's biggest exporter for almost a decade, but President Xi Jinping wants to rebrand the country as an importer amid criticism that its markets put foreign businesses at a disadvantage. Over 3,600 companies from around the world and national representatives from 80 countries are taking part in the week-long import expo, which is exclusively focused on promoting Chinese purchases of goods and services from other countries.

"We were waiting today for President Xi to inform the world about the reform that will take place in the coming days, but what we wanted to hear, (such as) the complete steps on implementing the reform and a clear timetable did not appear", said Carlo Diego D'Andrea, vice president and Shanghai Chapter chairman of the European Chamber of Commerce in China.

Howver, he said he was only open to what he called a "fair agreement". The long-term contract is worth roughly $39 billion based on current spot market prices. But in opening a high-profile import expo in Shanghai he provided no response to US and European complaints about technology policy and curbs on foreign business.

Both CNPC and Qatargas did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Official statistics show that China's total consumption expenditure stood at 43.5 trillion yuan (about $6.3 trillion) in 2017, accounting for 53.6 percent of its GDP, and consumption contributed 58.8 percent to the country's economic growth.

Those are among the reasons for the United States imposing tariffs on Chinese goods, and the absence of Western leaders among the 18 presidents and prime ministers at the expo's opening.

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India too has been pressuring China to take measures to bring down over Dollars 51 billion annual trade deficit, which was one of the main focus areas in the informal meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Wuhan in April this year.

The EU, which shares USA concerns over China's trade practices if not Trump's tariff strategy to address them, on Thursday called for China to take concrete steps to further open its market to foreign firms and provide a level playing field, adding that it would not sign up to any political statement at the forum.

Several roads in Shanghai have been repaved ahead of the event, and security has been beefed up.

The Expo is seen as an attempt by Beijing to counter mounting criticism of its trade and business practices.

"Here are all of these foreigners bringing their spices for the emperor", said one person.

He added that China would endeavour to "foster a world-class business environment" and that China´s doors will open "ever wider".

Bridging suppliers from all across the world with more than 160,000 buyers from over 80,000 domestic as well as foreign companies, the expo will substantially reduce the information and institutional costs for trade and deliver tangible deals and benefits for foreign firms. "Do you want a share?"

From the United States, some 136 exhibitors are expected to attend, including Google, Dell Inc, Ford (F.N) and General Electric (GE.N).

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