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Canton Fair witnessed the rise of China’s foreign trade and new journey of high quality development

At the opening press conference of the 126th Canton Fair on Oct 14, Xu Bing, spokesman for the Fair and Deputy Director General of the China Foreign Trade Centre, introduced Canton Fair’s development phases and serving national development strategies.

Xu said that this year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of PRC. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, China's economic aggregate increased by 174 times from over 60 billion dollars to 90 trillion dollars. The total amount of foreign trade surged from 1.1 billion dollars to 4.6 trillion dollars in 2018, a 4000 times increase. China started from a “poor and blank” country, but has grown to be the world’s second largest economy, largest industrialized country and largest trader in goods. In 2018, China contributed to 27.5% of world economic growth, and remained the first engine for growth for 13 consecutive years.

Canton Fair is the barometer of China’s foreign trade, also the window, epitome and symbol of China’s opening up. Since its founding in 1957, Canton Fair has never been suspended in its 62 years’ history. It enhanced the economic and trade exchanges between China and the world and demonstrated China’s tremendous progress made in economic growth, opening up and foreign trade development.

Xu pointed out that Canton Fair has gone through 4 stages in the past 62 years, with establishment in 1957, reform and opening up in 1978, China’s accession to the WTO in2001 and opening of the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012 as the symbols. From inauguration, exploration, thriving and quality development, Canton Fair has always focused on the big picture of China’s socialist modernization, implemented foreign trade development strategy and made positive contributions for Made-in-China, Chinese companies and brands to go global, to expand export and import, to China’s transformation into a big trade power and building a strong trade power, to China’s all-round opening up and the development of open world economy.

Established to break the blockade, Canton Fair opened China’s window to the world. Just after China was founded, hostile forces of the West conducted economic “blockade” and “embargo” to try to strangle China in economic aspect. To “break the embargo and earn foreign exchange”, Canton Fair was established in Guangzhou. The Chinese government explored in building an international platform for trade exchanges from the aspects of organization, model, customer inviting, etc. The birth of Canton Fair broke the embargo and political isolation, opened China’s doors to communicate with the world. It became the backbone of jumpstarting China’s foreign trade development. Canton Fair also built a bridge for exchanges with the world. Through the window of Canton Fair, peoples around the world saw a genuine, three-dimensional and comprehensive China.

Exploring steps made in reform and opening up to drive China’s integration into the world in an open manner. After the reform and opening up, China put forward “market diversification”, “winning by quality”, “large economy and trade”, and “trade rejuvenation by science and technology”, liberalized the operation of foreign trade, and witnessed a lively pattern of foreign trade. Following the trend, we reformed and improved Canton Fair’s organization mechanism, shifted from the monopoly of SOEs to a gathering of industrial and trade companies, foreign-funded, and private companies in terms of exhibitor mix to encourage provinces and cities to enlarge their export. In this stage, Canton Fair made tremendous contributions to China’s reform and opening up. Expanding exhibitor mix renewed Canton Fair; more and more companies stepped onto the stage of China’s foreign trade. Therefore Canton Fair became an important channel for Chinese products and companies to development the global market; many companies grew stronger thanks to their overseas customers and orders from the fair, and evolved into leading companies of their sectors. Canton Fair also attracted more and more global buyers after reform and opening up. They brought not only business opportunities to China, but also new concepts, technologies, standards and requirements. China’s export mix kept improving: agricultural and primary products with low added value were gradually replaced by those with high added value and industrial products. “Made in China” came into being and China’s foreign trade started to rise.

Thriving development after China’s accession to the WTO to drive China become a large trade power. After joining the WTO, China achieved leapfrog development in the foreign trade; Chinese products and services go global in big steps. Facing the new situation, we carried out multiple rounds of Canton Fair’s reform. From two phases of one session, two phases in two venues to three phases in one venue, from export to two-way trade, Canton Fair grew to be the largest exhibition in the world. It shifted from an export platform to one that integrates import and export and became an international trading event that is both comprehensive and specialized. In this stage, Canton Fair’s buyer attendance increased from 100,000 to 210,000; export transaction from 15 billion to over 30 billion dollars. Canton Fair was the most important channel for numerous SMEs to find overseas customers and develop global markets and the engine for the transformation and upgrading of many strong foreign trade companies who have grown stronger day by day. According to our survey, for over 20% exhibitors, transaction achieved at the Canton Fair account for more than a half of their yearly export. Customers met here also brought them a huge amount of transactions after the show; the proportion of transaction amount after the show to their total amount stands at 80%. Canton Fair was open to overseas exhibitors since the inception of the International Pavilion in 2007, providing great convenience for overseas companies to develop China’s huge consumer market and sell to the world. Till this day, more than 13000 overseas exhibitors (accumulatively) from 100 countries and regions have participated. As China’s first platform of promoting foreign trade, Canton Fair has made critical contributions to the leapfrog development of China’s foreign trade and China’s becoming the world’s largest trader.

Efforts for high quality development in the new era to serve China’s all-round opening up. Since the 18th CPC Congress, we at the Canton Fair, have insisted on new development concepts, implemented the requirements of high quality development, focused on specialization and spurred innovation in mechanisms, systems and business models to improve the specialization, digitalization, market-orientation and international development of the Fair. Canton Fair has gradually become a multi-functional and comprehensive international trading platform that centers on trade and combines customer networking, industrial exchange, trade matchmaking, design and trend, new product release and branding. Its role of an all-round platform has been better leveraged. We support the participation of regional industrial clusters and national exemplary bases of foreign trade transformation and upgrading, organize series of local featured industry promotion and trade matchmaking events, and advance industrial development and opening up of different regions. Canton Fair has established trade relations with more than 210 countries and regions in the world, providing competitive Chinese products to global consumers and improving the benefit of peoples around the world. Since its establishment, around 8.8 million overseas buyers (accumulatively) have attended. We have also actively promoted “Belt & Road” trade cooperation and developed partnership with relevant industrial and commercial organizations in countries along the route. Buyers from B&R countries account for 45% of the total while transactions achieved with these countries exceed 30%, making the Canton Fair a key platform for driving “Belt & Road” trade cooperation. Canton Fair is also the earliest exhibition in China to protect IPR. Through efficient IPR protection, we’ve enhanced the awareness of Chinese enterprises on IPR protection, provided strong support for innovative development of companies and product quality improvement, thus demonstrating to the world the resolute position of Chinese government to encourage innovation and protect IPR and enhancing the world’s confidence to develop trade relations with China.

Xu said that now at a new historical juncture, China’s foreign trade development is embarking on a new journey of strengthening China through trade. In the congratulatory letter to the 120th Canton Fair, President Xi elevated Canton Fair’s position to the level of driving open economic development of China and world and pointed out the direction for Canton Fair’s development in view of the overall strategy of opening up. We will follow the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, fulfill our historical mission of serving major strategies of the Party and the state, serving all-round opening up and serving the big picture of foreign trade development, implement new development concepts and pursue high-quality development. We will carry on the spirit of staying true to the mission, being brave to open up, persistence and reform and innovation and make new contributions to building China into a strong trader and open world economic development. Firstly, we will make innovation in mechanism, system and exhibition organization model, consolidate traditional advantages and cultivate new competitive edges to further improve core competitiveness. Secondly, we will improve specialization and optimize the structure of exhibitors, sections and products, to form a new pattern of series of specialized themes under a comprehensive show. In this way we will create an international trade promotion platform that combines comprehensive and specialized advantages and better leverage the Canton Fair’s role of an all-round platform of opening up. Thirdly, we will explore incremental reform of Canton Fair to include more Chinese and overseas exhibiting companies, to better support Chinese enterprises “go global” and overseas enterprises “go in”, and to better use domestic and international resources on a higher level. Fourthly, we will lead Chinese companies accelerate developing their own brands, promote Chinese brands go global, nurture China’s global brands, and advance replacing old growth drivers with new ones. Fifthly, we will spur innovation in marketing mode and invite worldwide buyers to attend the fair, to make sure the steady growth of the number and quality of buyers, to facilitate foreign trade enterprises optimize their international market mix and to better serve China’s new round of high quality opening up.

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