The second China International Import Expo (CIIE) could not have come at a better time. It coincided with China’s negations to finalize its “phase one” trade deal with the U.S. As a result, the CIIE has come to be viewed not just as an event showcasing China as the world’s major importer but a catalyst in redressing China’s trade tensions with the U.S.
Exhibiting China as an importer, however, is not easy given that China is predominantly known as one of the world’s largest exporters and a manufacturer for the whole world. Since launching its inaugural CIIE last November, China has taken several bold and innovative initiatives to drive imports as it remains the engine of global growth, and the world expects China to take a lead in redeeming world economic situation.
Chinese leadership fully understand this, which is reflected in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s keynote speech at the second CIIE which outlines the list of measures China has taken over the past year. China’s trade deficit with several nations, however, may yet weaken their potential in building strong economic partnerships with China. Addressing some of these perennial concerns, Xi’s speech underlines China’s commitment to further opening its market and strengthening protection for intellectual property rights.
For a change, Xi’s speech marked a blend of poetic expressions of meeting esteemed guests in a “lovely season tinted with deep autumn hues,” with China reaching out its arms and calling on nations to “join hands with each other instead of letting go of each other’s hands” and to “stand firm against protectionism and unilateralism.”
The theme of the second CIIE, “New Era, Shared Future,” reflected Xi’s vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind through inclusive and sustainable development, which is driven by international collaborations, infusions of technology and innovations. Comparing globalization to the world’s mightiest rivers, Xi emphasized how expanding economic integration was an unstoppable trend.
Endorsing China’s global acceptance, the second CIIE hosted participants from 155 countries and regions and 26 international organizations. The most noticeable was the participation of 192 U.S. companies, up from 174 last year.
Amongst several leaders present at the opening ceremony, French President Emmanuel Macron echoed how China’s partner nations appreciate its drive at reform and opening up. He said: “Much has been done in recent years with two revisions of the negative lists for foreign investment... Important tariff reductions have been granted,” adding that “all French, German, and European companies expect a lot of China’s promises here.”
The second CIIE also coincided with a series of ASEAN related summits in Bangkok in the absence of U.S. President Donald Trump. As an outcome of the summits, China succeeded in ensuring an early conclusion of the negotiations for Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which will form the largest free trade agreement in Asia.
The author is chairman of the Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.