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China to court global firms at major import expo despite Covid controls

China has wrapped up a major import fair that seeks to facilitate market access for foreigners, even as the government’s draconian coronavirus measures continue to restrict international trade with China.

According to organizers, the China International Import Expo in Shanghai is one of the world’s largest trade events and has been President Xi Jinping’s personal project since its launch in 2018. More than half of the multinational companies participated.

The event, which took place partly virtually last year, came at a pivotal time. chinese economy It faces mounting pressure from the government’s zero-coronavirus policy, weakening trade data, and increased scrutiny over prospects for reopening.

Foreigners were few in the sprawling 59-acre conference center near Shanghai’s Hongqiao Airport, but about half a million people flocked to the glittering stalls where companies showcased their latest products and technologies.

Chinese authorities continue to require a one-week hotel quarantine for international arrivals, and unlike previous events such as the Beijing Winter Olympics, “closed loopNo system was in place to facilitate the participation of foreigners in the fair. The expo also applied its own Covid-19 protocols, including the entry requirement of having a negative PCR test within the last 24 hours.

At the booth of Danish group Arla Foods Ingredients, Shanghai-based head of Asia Alexander Leufgen said some customers, both inside and outside of China, were having trouble attending the event due to the pandemic. said. The company was hosting another event for them downtown, he added.

Andreas Trude, China Director at the Norwegian Seafood Council, said: “This is a strict regime. Despite this, Norwegian seafood exports to China have increased by 4% year-on-year in volume and 46% in value. It is an increase and is setting a record, he added.

“When it comes to Norwegian seafood in the Chinese market, the numbers speak for themselves,” he said.

The trade fair was held under strict Covid-19 regulations, requiring participants to submit a negative PCR test within the past 24 hours © Alex Plavevski/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Such growth underscores how attractive the Chinese market is to foreign exporters despite restrictions and trade disruptions caused by the pandemic. In 2020, China temporarily suspended salmon imports from Europe after an outbreak was confirmed at the Xinfadi wholesale market in Beijing. Covid cases close to ports sporadically hamper trade.

Leufgen said his company posted double-digit revenue growth in China this year and that China remains an attractive market. “One of the side effects of Covid-19, he said, is that people are less health conscious. [in China] increased,” he said.

Official trade data this week showed that Chinese imports surged early in the pandemic. dropped for the first time Exports have also contracted in the last month since 2020, despite forecasts of a 4.5% increase. The economy grew 3.9% in the third quarter, well below the government’s annual target of 5.5%.

Several foreign company representatives were able to attend the fair remotely only through videoconference, which was almost entirely attended by domestic media. He said China is “a great opportunity for all New Zealand companies operating in the dairy industry”, adding that he was looking forward to visiting China again after his last visit in 2019. rice field.

Domenico Monge, head of Italy’s largest pet food brand Monge, reiterated that China is a “great opportunity” but pointed to market challenges, including domestic competition.

In his opening remarks via video link on Friday, President Xi said China remains committed to its “basic national policy of being open to the world,” adding that it will “cooperate with all countries and all parties.” and share opportunities in that vast market.” .

But he offered no insight into further easing of Covid controls. Driven Market Rotation in the last few weeks.

Speaking at the Norwegian Seafood Council stall, Thorud said it was significant that the trade event was held despite the restrictions. “So far, CIIE is going according to plan,” he said. “China hasn’t opened yet, but when it does, you should be ready.”

Additional reporting by Wang Xueqiao in Shanghai

https://www.ft.com/content/f1efb025-cf23-4369-8580-19fd631bb67c China to court global firms at major import expo despite Covid controls

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