Import expo to push for more open market

With less than 100 days from the start of the China International Import Expo, due to be held in November, China is in the midst of final preparations for this trade extravaganza.

With less than 100 days from the start of the China International Import Expo, due to be held in November, China is in the midst of final preparations for this trade extravaganza.

As the first state-level expo that features import as a central theme, the event has been credited as one of the biggest innovations in the history of world trade.

Wu Xingbao, deputy head of Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce, told media recently that the expo manifests China’s willingness to further open up its domestic market.

On the one hand, China’s increasing economic clout has led many countries to view it as an important market as well as an opportunity for their own development, said Wu.

On the other, amid trade frictions and rising tides of protectionism, economic globalization is at a crossroads. Chinese leaders including President Xi Jinping have on many occasions acknowledged their commitment to economic globalization and free trade, said Wu.

According to him, China will use the expo as a platform to vigorously import more goods and services from abroad.

In so doing it will enable other countries to benefit from its dramatic development.

“China will unswervingly provide an export market for its trade partners,” said Wu.

Xu Mingqi, director of the Shanghai Institute for European Studies, explained that the expo in itself signals that China has already felt the urgency to balance its trade. The economist believed that China can considerably reduce its surplus with other countries by freeing up a number of sectors that were previously off-limits to foreign investors.

Moreover, it has already begun removing policy curbs on foreign businesses operating within certain industries, he said.

He told a recent forum that a lesson learned from the past 40 years of reform and opening up is that the import of advanced technology and equipment immensely helps upgrade the industrial chain and enhance the competitiveness of domestic companies.

With the Chinese government paying a high premium on the protection of intellectual property rights, introduction of patents and technologies from overseas is vital to the overall expansion of China’s economic might and overhaul of its industrial structure.

Xu predicted that the next important step — it is already happening in a few areas — in making the Chinese economy more open is to ease the restrictions for foreign financial service providers.

For example, foreign financial institutions will be allowed to hold a 51 percent stake in a joint venture, effectively making them the largest shareholder — a move that marks a complete shift from past practices. In an even more encouraging message, national planning authorities said that caps on share-holding rates for foreign investors will be phased out in three years, said Xu.

These developments came after news reports in April that China will scrap share-holding limits in the automobile, shipbuilding and airplane manufacturing sectors for foreign investors.

Meanwhile, the import expo also represents a significant exercise in the so-called “host diplomacy.” The event is the fourth in what Chen Dongxiao described as a four-chapter diplomatic “symphony” played on Chinese soil this year.

The president of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies argued that the expo, which comes after the Boao Forum in April, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s Qingdao summit in June, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation scheduled to kick off in September, will conclude the much-vaunted “host diplomacy” on a high note.

A centerpiece of this “host diplomacy,” said Chen, is to create opportunities through openness, promote development through innovation, foster collaboration through inclusiveness and advance justice through equity.

He added that China will showcase the hitherto greatly expanded scale and scope of its opening-up efforts, champion more inclusive growth and let others share in the benefits of its development.

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