A better CIIE calls for enhanced import policies

Shanghai deputies to the National People's Congress give their opinions as China aims to host a larger and more profound import expo this year.

Shanghai deputies to the National People’s Congress have been giving suggestions on how the second China International Import Expo this year should further expedite customs clearance.

“The import expo facilitates high-level opening up and international trade, but the temporary measures that benefit traders during the event can be extended beyond the expo period,” said Wang Wei, a deputy who works as a manager at Shanghai Orient International Co.

The company has a long import-export experience and is also an authorized promotion partner of the CIIE, with Wang in charge of work related to the expo.

Currently, products that enter Shanghai for the expo can be only be left in Shanghai's free trade areas after the event. But there are more than 20 exhibition and trading centers for these products which are not located in those areas, Wang said.

Also, food and consumer goods put on display at the CIIE last year were allowed to enter China with a permit to sell overseas and a license of origin but this customs clearance facilitation measure applied only to the expo, she said.

Meanwhile, due to administrative barriers, some products have to wait a long time before a final placement on the Chinese market.

“The importers have to seek different local government departments to acquire the import permit for goods such as health and milk products and medical equipment,” Wang said. “The process is not efficient and the procedures are complicated.”

The lack of a clear schedule for eventual imports of products is undermining the strategic importance of the CIIE, she insisted.

Wang’s company applied to import an organic milk powder product in February last year, and during the expo, the company signed a US$200-million purchase-intent agreement with the concerned exhibitor, but it hasn’t yet been able to register the formula of the product.

She suggested that the central government give local governments some authority to give permits and register imported products to facilitate imports.

“We hope that exhibits at the import expo can become consumer products in China in a short time, so that the CIIE can truly become a feast that allows the best from around the world (to be available) on the doorsteps of Chinese consumers,” Wang said.

Zhang Weimin, deputy general manager of Shanghai International Trade Promotion Co, which is also a promotion partner of the CIIE, suggested that different government institutions, including customs and inspection and quarantine authorities, need to work more closely to facilitate policies for the expo.

“Now they work together mostly based on conferences and coordination mechanisms, but it would be more efficient if they physically work together,” he said.

Zhu Zhisong, Party Secretary of Minhang District, agreed with the duo's opinion. The Hongqiao Import Commodity Exhibition and Trading Center, an extension of the CIIE, is located in the suburban district.

“While China has been reducing tariffs on many kinds of products, some non-tariff barriers make importing some products cumbersome,” he said.

Zhu proposed that different government departments could offer one-stop administrative services at the exhibition and trading center.

China aims to host a larger and more profound import expo this year. Last year, more than 3,600 businesses from 151 countries and regions participated in the inaugural CIIE, which saw purchase deals worth about 58 billion yuan (US$8.6 billion yuan).

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