CIIE: New chapter for India-China trade
All eyes are on next week’s mega event, the China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai which opens on November 5. The world’s first import-themed expo, the CIIE is going to be a path-breaking event in the process of China’s opening-up which not only represents China’s sincere strategy to further open its market to the world, but also reflects the win-win spirit of the Belt and Road Initiative.
According to media reports, the six-day import fair will draw the participation of more than 2,000 government officials, international organization leaders, renowned entrepreneurs and academics from over 130 countries and regions. The CIIE will not only provide opportunities for 3,000 companies around the world to explore the Chinese market, but also create a platform for countries to share business opportunities with each other.
Such levels of participation from the international community is a clear vote of confidence on China’s leading role in globalization and free trade at a time when the developing and developed worlds both face challenges in trying to overcome a tendency during tough economic times to turn toward protectionism. As such, the CIIE is an example of China’s global insight as well as its long-term goal of creating a global society that works together.
During his visit to New Delhi on March 26 this year, Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan invited Indian companies to attend the CIIE and suggested that India might be able to increase exports to China via the expo. At least 100 Indian exporters are expected to take part in the global fair. The exclusive event will open new avenues for Indian goods entering China’s vast market along with goods from all over the world.
Last year at Davos, President Xi announced that in the coming five years, China is expected to invest US$750 billion abroad and will import US$8 trillion of goods and services from other countries and regions. The door of China is being wide open, and India should not miss it.
From an Indian perspective, the success of the informal summit in Wuhan between President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 27-28, 2018, has created a new platform for economic and trade engagement between the two countries. There is ample scope for India to cut a big pie of the Chinese investment in order to narrow India’s trade deficit with China.
As Trump ramps up harsh protectionist measures towards both countries, China’s trade surplus with India narrowed. From January to July this year, bilateral trade reached nearly US$55 billion, with a year-on-year growth of 15 percent. China has lowered tariffs on some of Indian goods exported to China, increased imports of sugar, non-Basmati rice and other agricultural products from India, facilitated the export of Indian medicines to China, and further improved the trade structure.
In recent years, Chinese consumers have shown an increasing desire for Indian red tea, coffee, fruit and seafood. On the other hand, China is the biggest importer of soybean in the world. The U.S.-imposed trade war has opened a new door for India to avail export opportunities of soybean to China, particularly since April 4, when China announced plans to slap a 25 percent tariff on 106 U.S. products, including soybean. If China increases its market access for Indian food, the latter’s traditional basmati rice, mango, red tea will surely win the hearts of food-loving Chinese people.
A note of optimism in economic ties between the two countries has been uttered by Gao Feng, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Commerce, saying: “As two large developing countries and major emerging market economies, China and India both have a huge domestic market.” He added that, “The economies of both countries are highly complementary to each other, creating enormous potential for cooperation.”
On the other hand, China can play a significant role in Prime Minister Modi’s ambitious project “Digital India.” Chinese internet companies such as Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent invested a whopping US$5.2 billion in 30 Indian start-up companies in 2017, which reflects China’s great interest in the Indian market.
Trade is a very important aspect of bilateral ties between India and China. It is normal to have some trade differences between the two major developing countries, but the first-ever China-oriented import expo has offered an opportunity for both countries to create a new chapter in trade, sharing common interests in defending the multilateral trading system and free trade. Chinese products have greatly benefited Indian consumers over the years, and the CIIE will offer a platform for many Indian companies to expand exports to China, furthering trade ties between the two countries.
Rabi Sankar Bosu, Secretary of New Horizon Radio Listeners’ Club, West Bengal, India
Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors only, not necessarily those of China Focus