Nanning,Nov 26–This year marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Zone, which makes the upcoming 17th China-ASEAN Expo, or CAEXPO, of extra significance. The event is expected to significantly expand bilateral cooperation, the expo’s secretariat said.
The 17th expo uses the slogan “Building the Belt and Road, Strengthening Digital Economy Cooperation” and kicks off on Friday in Nanning, the capital city of South China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. It will conclude on Nov 30.
Organizers will provide a total of 5,400 exhibition booths, including about 820 booths designed for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Belt and Road exhibition area. A group of Fortune Global 500 enterprises and well-known companies have registered for the exhibition, according to Wang Lei, secretary-general of the CAEXPO Secretariat.
The Lao People’s Democratic Republic will serve as the country of honor at the 17th CAEXPO. It is the republic’s second time serving as the event’s country of honor since 2009.
“Over the past 17 years, the China-ASEAN Expo has not only demonstrated extraordinary achievements in deepening trade and investment cooperation, but it has also fostered cultural exchange and mutual understanding,” said Virasac Somphong, consul-general of Laos in Nanning. “It improves people-to-people exchanges between ASEAN and China as well as between Laos and China.”
This year’s expo will increase its service coverage from 10 plus 1(10 members of ASEAN plus China) to 15 participating countries of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, Wang said.
The RCEP agreement was formally signed on Nov 15 to launch the world’s biggest free trade bloc. The 10-member ASEAN and its five free trade partners－China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand－inked the agreement via video call in which all pledged to lower trade barriers and promote interregional relationships.
The signing came after more than 30 rounds of negotiations, which began in November 2012. Several meetings between leaders and ministers were held between participating countries.
The 15 participating countries of the RCEP account for about 30 percent of the global population, global gross domestic product and global trade.
Lu Xinshe, Party secretary of Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, said the agreement demonstrates the common intention of regional countries to support multilateralism and free trade to further deepen economic and trade cooperation, which will provide more favorable conditions for accelerating the development of a new development pattern.
“We will actively follow the general trend of China-ASEAN and regional open cooperation, focus on building the China-ASEAN Expo, and improve the level of professionalization, internationalization, branding, and continue to build China-ASEAN high-level dialogue,” Lu said.
The China-ASEAN Expo will invite more companies from the RCEP countries to participate in its exhibition and sub-activities, while promoting the resource and market advantages of ASEAN and the capital and technological advantages of the rest RCEP participating countries, Wang said. To mitigate the influence of COVID-19 pandemic, the 17th expo will feature both physical exhibitions and “Cloud CAEXPO”.
The offline exhibition will focus on merchandise trade, investment and cooperation, as well as trade in services and advanced technologies. It includes seven newly added exhibition zones related to the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, epidemic prevention and public health, and the China (Guangxi) Pilot Free Trade Zone. The cloud part of the expo will include a Chinese goods pavilion as well as pavilions for ASEAN economies, special partners and countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative. It will provide one-stop services for viewers to buy specialty items from these countries and regions.
More than 50 foreign companies and institutes are expected to exhibit on the cloud platform for the first time. One-to-one online matchmaking service will also be provided to foreign business professionals and Chinese buyers.
The expo will also hold 10 high-level forums. Eight will be held during the expo, along with more than 100 online and offline trade and economic promotion activities.
“From the statistics and success stories of our previous participations, CAEXPO has proven that it is an effective platform to boost trade, investment and tourism between ASEAN and China,” said Azlimi Zakaria, consul-general of Malaysia in Nanning. “Malaysia has always valued our participation in the expo as one of the most successful platforms for us to increase our bilateral trade activities, introduce our companies to the Chinese market, promote business matching, and discover new investment opportunities.”
This year, China Pacific Construction Group will be the chief strategic partner of the expo for the third time. By serving the expo, it will continue to deepen communication and cooperation with the 10-member ASEAN.The Fortune Global 500 company has established cooperation relationships with Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia by carrying out a series of successful projects in each country. It also set up an ASEAN headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.