Over six decades after China established the Canton Fair, originally aimed at exports, the country is planning to open its first trade expo exclusively dedicated to imports.
China on Friday announced the 100-day countdown to the first China International Import Expo (CIIE), the world's first import-themed national-level expo, which will be held in Shanghai from Nov. 5 to 10.
A landmark project to open up China's market to the world, the expo affirms the country's commitment to free trade and shared prosperity, despite rising protectionism.
Huang Jianzhong, an economist with Shanghai University of International Business and Economics, described the CIIE as "a large-scale and high-level import expo without precedent globally."
The CIIE will attract exhibitors from all G20 members, over 50 countries and regions along the Belt and Road and more than 30 of the world's least-developed countries, according to organizers.
Over 130 countries and regions and more than 2,800 companies have confirmed participation in the CIIE. More than 150,000 domestic and international buyers are expected to attend.
Exhibitor enthusiasm has beaten expectations.
"The booth area for businesses was already fully booked in June, and we had to expand the booth area twice, from 210,000 square meters to 270,000 square meters," said Sun Chenghai, deputy director of the CIIE Bureau.
More than 30 companies and institutions, including many industry leaders, have already signed up for the second CIIE.
Foreign businesses are coveting market opportunities created by one of the world's fastest growing major economies and the world's biggest middle-income group, who are demanding a better life and higher-quality goods.
China has been the world's second largest importer of goods for nine consecutive years, and took 10.2 percent of global imports last year. Chinese authorities expect the country to import goods worth 24 trillion U.S. dollars in the next 15 years.
As an upgrading consumption sector reshapes China's economic and trade structure, the CIIE is expected to give new impetus to such a transition and make China's market more accessible than ever.
Arancha Gonzalez, executive director of the International Trade Center, called the CIIE "a very unique fair."
"It signals a commitment of China to move from being a global factory to being a global market," Gonzalez said.
With the CIIE, China can share its experience of expanding exports with other countries and help them tap the Chinese market, she said. The expo is "an example of how international trade can be win-win."
HIGH-QUALITY OPENING UP
From Japanese shoes and U.S. cosmetics, to German medicines and Swiss machine tools, a variety of consumer goods, high-tech products and advanced services will be on show at the first CIIE.
Andreas Weller, president of Asia Pacific region for German auto parts maker ZF, said the company would display its latest technology in autonomous driving and e-mobility at the expo.
"ZF is greatly pleased to take part in the first CIIE, which is an important means for us and for the Chinese economy to continue opening up," he said.
U.S. chemical giant Dupont will showcase its smart wearable products currently still being developed. Chip maker Qualcomm will bring its cutting-edge technologies in 5G and AI. Italian football club Inter Milan plans to invite its soccer stars to the fair.
Global auditing and consultancy firm Deloitte will showcase dozens of innovative solutions in AI, machine learning and big data analysis, according to Liu Minghua in charge of Deloitte China's business in the eastern China region.
"China has always been one of Deloitte's most important strategic markets. We're looking forward to participating in the CIIE," she said.
In the eyes of economist Huang Jianzhong, the CIIE is telling evidence of the high-quality of China's opening up.
"With high-quality rather than high-speed opening up, China is putting in place a set of institutional arrangements to open up its market," Huang said.
Earlier this month, China introduced substantial tariff cuts on automobiles and consumer goods. While tariff cuts reduce the costs of imports, the CIIE aims to provide institutional support by boosting information sharing and bridging supply and demand.
At the expo, a service center will be set up to provide consulting on intellectual property right protection and help companies tackle disputes.
With high-quality opening up, China also aims to create inclusive growth that benefits both developed and developing economies.
For the least-developed countries participating in the expo, discounts on fees and a number of free booths will be provided, while China COSCO Shipping Corp. Ltd., an officially recommended shipper, will charge lower shipping rates on their exhibits.
"The CIIE will provide a new type of global public goods for building a community with a shared future for humanity," Sun said.