China’s international import expo in Shanghai set for smaller numbers as pandemic rages on

Daniel Ren
·4-min read

The third China International Import Expo (CIIE) will go ahead this week with no sign of the global coronavirus pandemic slowing down, although there will be fewer exhibitors and visitors at the event in Shanghai amid restrictions on cross border travel.

The expo, which runs from November 5-10, was started in 2018 by Chinese President Xi Jinping as a way of boosting imports to close China’s trade surplus with partners and showing its commitment to an open economy at the onset of a bruising trade war with the United States.

While several of China’s top international trade expos this year have been held virtually or postponed because of the pandemic, the CIIE will be a physical event that underlines the country’s strong rebound from the coronavirus.

Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.

“The holding of the CIIE represents a triumph for China and Shanghai in containing the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Sun Lixing, a researcher at Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. “Nobody could have expected it to be held on schedule at the beginning of this year.”

To meet the rising demand from the country’s rising consumption, Chinese importers are certain to spend heavily to buy

Sun Lixing

The Shanghai government said on Friday 400,000 people had registered for the event, although it did not provide a breakdown of foreign visitors. In 2019, more than 500,000 people registered for the trade fair with 6,000 from overseas.

Though the number of attendees will be down on last year, Sun said Beijing could use the fair as a bargaining tool in future trade negotiations.

“To meet the rising demand from the country’s rising consumption, Chinese importers are certain to spend heavily to buy,” he said. “As an import powerhouse, China should have a bigger say in the global economy.”

The US government has never sent representatives to the expo and so far no official announcements have confirmed foreign dignitaries this year.

Previous events have drawn huge publicity, especially with the attendance of foreign leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron and then EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan last year.

Participants from abroad will have to quarantine for 14 days after arriving in Shanghai and be tested for Covid-19.

Before entering the venue, visitors must provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 nucleic acid test and wear a mask at all times, according to CIIE guidelines. Body temperature checks will also be conducted at the National Convention and Exhibition Centre, the venue for the event.

Xi will not make an in-person appearance at this year’s expo, but will deliver a keynote speech via video link at the opening ceremony, the Ministry of Commerce said last week.

Hundreds of police officers will be deployed in neighbourhoods surrounding the venue and security will be tightened across the city, two local police sources said.

Our members are committed to the Chinese market, but only if we see real changes and reform

Carlo Diego D’Andrea

While the event is billed as one of China’s premier international trade expos, three executives from multinational companies in China, who declined to be named, expressed lukewarm interest in ahead of the CIIE, complaining it was largely of symbolic value.

European businesses said last year about half of the deals signed at the 2018 event had not been executed.

“Our members are committed to the Chinese market, but only if we see real changes and reform,” said Carlo Diego D’Andrea, vice-president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China and chairman of its Shanghai chapter. “Promises and big displays like the CIIE are no longer enough.”

China has put health care high on the agenda for this year’s expo. Germany’s BioNTech will participate the Shanghai expo for the first time with its Chinese partner Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical.

BioNTech and its US partner Pfizer are among the leaders in the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine. The two companies signed an agreement in August to potentially supply 10 million doses of their Covid-19 vaccine to Hong Kong and Macau.

More from South China Morning Post:

This article China’s international import expo in Shanghai set for smaller numbers as pandemic rages on first appeared on South China Morning Post

For the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.