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Import expo provides big boost for BRICS

By YUAN SHENGGAO | China Daily

Deepening cooperation among the five members of BRICS — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — underlines the important role the China International Import Expo plays in bolstering their economic and trade exchanges while actively bridging the global supply and value chains, according to CIIE officials.

The five BRICS members represent 42 percent of global population and 25 percent of the global GDP.With 35 percent of the world’s trade volume, it is a primary platform for cooperation between emerging markets and developing countries. And as the world’s first national-level expo with importation as its theme, the CIIE has become an important tool for BRICS enterprises to implement economic and trade cooperation, the officials said.

Increasing trade

As the only BRICS member in Africa, South Africa has greatly benefited from the CIIE as the Chinese market for South African red wine and black tea has steadily increased, as has demand for South African lobsters and abalones. Xue Dong, a counselor of the Chinese Embassy in South Africa, said at an online promotion conference ahead of the sixth CIIE that an increasing number of South African companies have taken advantage of the expo’s platform, which serves as a fast track for entering China’s development.

Over the past five years, Brazilian companies have likewise taken advantage of the expo to deepen their presence in the Chinese market, with trade associations such as the Apex-Brasil actively promoting their products at the annual CIIE. Ricardo Santin, president of the association, said its aim is to seize the high-level opening-up opportunities in China and strengthen bilateral cooperation in the trade of agricultural and sideline products.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Brazil mining giant Vale’s exports to China, and the company will participate in the CIIE for the sixth consecutive year. “The expo reflects China’s firm support for free trade and economic globalization and demonstrates its determination to adhere to a high-level of opening-up and share market opportunities with the world, which is an admirable act,” said a Vale manager.

The CIIE also provides a platform for Indian companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, to enter the Chinese market. The total exhibition area of Indian companies in the previous five CIIEs was nearly 3,000 square meters, in which spices, cashmere carpets, handicrafts and other products received attention from Chinese consumers.

As an important platform bridging emerging markets and developing countries, the BRICS cooperation mechanism plays a significant role in maintaining and strengthening the global industrial supply chain. And as a window for China to build a new development paradigm, promote high-level opening-up and an international product shared by the world, the CIIE matches the development direction of BRICS countries’ economic and trade cooperation by assisting the smooth flow of the industrial supply chain while at the same time promoting continuous transformation and upgrading.

At previous CIIEs, South African exhibitors showcased products with high added value, especially agricultural processed products, as part of their efforts to increase the added value of exports to China and expand the overall export scale.

At the fifth CIIE, eight Brazilian agricultural technology and energy technology companies participated in the innovation incubation area exhibition, demonstrating that economic and trade cooperation between the two countries has expanded from traditional agriculture and mineral resources to innovative fields such as digital economy and low-carbon economy.

According to Wang Jian, a researcher from Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, the influence of BRICS countries continues to grow, making them major representatives of emerging market countries and important cogs in the global supply chain by playing a constructive role in promoting global economic growth and stabilizing the supply chain.

For example, Brazil’s position in the global agricultural and mineral resources supply system is prominent, while South Africa is one of the centers of the global mining supply chain and an important part of the global automotive supply chain and regional assembly center. Meanwhile, India has obvious advantages in industries such as pharmaceuticals and software.

Spreading culture

The members of BRICS, along with other countries, have utilized the CIIE to enhance economic and trade cooperation by turning exhibits into commodities and exhibitors into investors. Cultural exchanges and people-to-people connectivity have likewise been strengthened.

After showcasing their signature foods at the expo, some South African participants have opened restaurants in China. “About 70 percent of the raw materials were showcased at the CIIE, and we are now presenting high-standard food to the Shanghai residents,” said Shao Zhenyu, chairman of a South African wine group.

Similarly, Russia’s century-old vodka brand Tatspirtprom debuted at the 2020 CIIE and opened its first store in the Shanghai Hongqiao Import Commodity Exhibition and Trading Center in October of the same year. Since then it has been a fixture at the CIIE and opened a direct-sale store in Shanghai in September 2022, allowing Chinese consumers to savor vodka culture.

BBFAT, a handcrafted alpaca wool brand with certified origin from Peru, entered the Chinese market in 2021 by exhibiting 30 products at the CIIE. By 2022, the brand had expanded its booth with 120 exhibits and signed contracts with 23 partners on-site. Now BBFAT has multiple offline stores in China Due to the attractiveness of the Chinese market, many company participants have transformed from first-time visitors to regular customers because of the CIIE, and the expo’s four major platforms — international procurement, investment promotion, cultural exchange, and open cooperation — continue to demonstrate their effectiveness, officials said.

The sixth CIIE, which will take place in Shanghai from Nov 5 to 10, promises new cooperation opportunities. As Evandro Menezes de Carvalho, a China-Brazil relationship researcher stated: “At a time of global economic downturn, China’s high-level opening-up has boosted confidence in jointly overcoming the difficulties and challenges faced by global economic development.”

During last week’s BRICS Leaders’ Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, it was announced that Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were invited to become new BRICS members.

Officials said this historic expansion reflects the determination of BRICS to cooperate with emerging countries, as well as the strong appeal and influence of the BRICS mechanism. In welcoming the expansion, CIIE officials said the expo will continue to drive BRICS members to deepen their cooperation and achieve greater possibilities.

The BRIC group’s first formal summit was held in 2009, where the four emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China discussed how they could cooperate as members of a global community. In 2011, South Africa joined the ranks, transforming BRIC into BRICS.

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