Business, International

American companies “covet” burgeoning Chinese market at import fair


SHANGHAI, Nov. 8 — From wines to health products, from wearable technology to whole-home automation, from helicopters to electric motors for aerospace, from global logistics service to financial solutions…

An exhibitor introduces Wisconsin jade to visitors at the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, east China, Nov. 7, 2018. (Xinhua/Wang Jianhua)

More than 160 American companies, armed with their fanciest products and newest services, are frantically trying to attract Chinese consumers amidst the hive of activity at the ongoing China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai that opened on Monday.

HEAVYWEIGHTS
Top U.S. companies show up at the six-day CIIE, an event that declares China’s unshakable belief in multilateralism, and aim to sow new seeds with the Chinese.
In the past 40 years, AECOM, a U.S. multinational engineering firm that provides design, consulting, construction and management services, has participated in a wide array of major national development projects in China, including the Belt and Road construction, Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei and Yangtze River Delta Economic Zone projects, said Sean Chiao, president of AECOM Asia Pacific.

Commenting on the CIIE, he said it will “definitely play an unparalleled role in facilitating and promoting the economic development of China and of the world.”
“The CIIE is a platform that goes beyond China,” said Stephen Badger, chairman of the board of directors of confectionery maker Mars from Chicago, Illinois.

“It is a truly global event driving development across all Chinese industries by promoting cooperation amongst government and business entities as well as globalization and trade liberalization,” he said.

“As President Xi Jinping touched on (on Monday), we will only realize our shared future in this new era by supporting economic globalization, global opening up, and inclusive development — all principles that Mars stands by as well,” Badger added.
Companies like Johnson & Johnson also pick the newly-born fair to debut in the Chinese market a host of advanced medical devices; whilst many AI-based products from other companies are introduced to Chinese consumers ahead of schedule thanks to the CIIE.

According to the expo’s organizer, U.S. companies, including Ford, Tesla, Microsoft, Dell, Qualcomm, General Electric, Mars and 3M, have already agreed to participate next year.
New York-based Estee Lauder, which missed this year’s event, has made an early decision that it will join in the coming year.

BURGEONING MARKET
Besides the heavyweights, state-level U.S. organizations are bringing in new players as well. Notably at the expo are nine companies from Wisconsin.

“So far, we do not hear companies saying ‘Oh No,'” said Cate Rahmlow, director of Sector Strategy Development with Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. The team of companies she assembles includes those from manufacturing, agriculture and smart water technology sectors.

Some companies even signed for their attendance before the event was officially promoted in Wisconsin state in February, said Khay Khong, a colleague of Rahmlow, who is more specialized in the Asian market.

“To do business in China, you need a long-term relationship…” and “if you think in the long term, China’s growing middle-class is going to demand more such products,” Khong said, pointing to some state-of-the-art voice-controlled home automation products on display at the Wisconsin booth, which covered an area of around 200 square meters.

The size of the booth was the envy of Del Christensen.
Leading a number of companies from the Bay Area, Christensen, from the Bay Area Council, a regional business and economic policy association based in San Francisco, regretted that he had not managed to book a larger space.

At his kiosk of some 10 square meters, his exhibits include wines made in the Bay Area, home to some of the world’s most famous wineries, and biotech and tourism products.
“Next year, I am going to get a bigger booth,” said Christensen.
In Hall 7 at the CIIE, Belkin was promoting its latest model of touch-less phone chargers and an easy screen protector service.
A manufacturer of consumer electronics headquartered in California, Belkin is famous for its cellphone care products and its high compatibility with Apple.

Alex Chang, senior e-commerce manager of Belkin (Shanghai), said shopping online has made it easier for Chinese people to choose high-end quality products.
The Chinese market is full of potential, he said, stressing that Belkin also works now with Chinese mobile phone brands to develop more diversified products.

“YES” TO FREE TRADE
If new business is found at the CIIE, it is definitely a plus for both China and the United States. “But even the establishment of new business contacts can be a plus as it creates the possibility of new business down the road,” Kenneth Jarrett, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, told Xinhua.

The sheer size of the U.S. and Chinese economies means that if there is increased trade between them, “it makes a big contribution to global GDP growth, which is a positive stimulus for all,” Jarrett added.
For Harld Peters, president of UPS China, the free flow of trade is vital.

“The world’s logistic industry benefits from a global system that facilitates trade, only then can we reach maximum efficiency and effectiveness to reach our customers,” Peters told Xinhua.

“I am a strong believer of the fact that trade empowers people and gets people opportunities and gets business opportunities,” he said. “If business grows, people grow as well. The way they can do with their life improves as well.”

“I have a very solid belief that at the end of the day, trade wins,” Peters said.
For his part, Liang Ming, director of the foreign trade research center at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said “China’s negative list is getting shorter and shorter, and we have the roadmap and timetable for continuous promotion of our opening up.”

It is fair to say that China’s opening up, with sound achievements, will be a big cake for the world, Liang said.
(Zhou Rui, Chen Aiping, Xu Xiaoqing, Su Liang, Ren Yaoti contributed to the story.) – XINHUA