Volunteers for the upcoming China International Import Expo (CIIE) pose for a photo with the mascot "Jinbao" outside the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai, east China, Oct. 26, 2018. (Xinhua/Fang Zhe)
Five days away from the first China International Import Expo (CIIE), foreign exhibitors at the event are rushing to make final touches to their booths to ensure their exhibits shine.
The CIIE is slated to kick off in Shanghai on Monday, with the world set to witness China's transformation from being the biggest exporter in goods to an even bigger buyer.
At the booth of Italian high-tech company Leonardo Helicopter, engineers are busy assembling three slick models.
The company has high hopes for the China debut of one of the models -- the AW189. The high-performance, 8.6-tonne super-medium-sized twin-engine helicopter is priced at 200 million yuan (28.7 million U.S. dollars). It can be used for a wide range of missions for search and rescue, commercial passenger transport and offshore oil-exploration operations.
The company said it plans to establish a helicopter training center and a final assembly workshop in China.
Leonardo has received more than 200 orders from China and its helicopters have been commissioned in medical rescue fleets in over 20 Chinese provincial-level regions.
A flying car developed by AeroMobil, a Slovakian engineering firm, is expected to make its Asia debut at the CIIE. As a star exhibit at the expo, it was shipped to Shanghai on Oct. 18, but has remained veiled.
More than 3,000 companies from over 130 countries and regions have so far confirmed their participation in the event, bringing more than 5,000 new products and technologies to China, Vice Commerce Minister Fu Ziying has said.
Jimmy Choo Yeang Keat OBE, co-founder of London-based luxury shoe brand Jimmy Choo, said he and his godson, a jewelry designer for Reggie Hung, will bring their new luxury brand Genavant to China through the event.
The brand, featuring jewelry-studded shoes, is set to unveil one pair priced at 30 million yuan at the CIIE.
"I have never done a whole pair of shoes covered with pink diamonds before. We spent almost one year on it," Choo said.
"The expo is big news, not only for China but the whole world," the 70-year-old said.
Arancha Gonzalez, executive director of the International Trade Center, called the CIIE "a very unique fair" and "an example of how international trade can be win-win."
"It signals a commitment of China to move from being a global factory to being a global market," Gonzalez said.
He said his organization sponsored 100 SMEs to take part in the expo in order to help firms from less-developed countries benefit from China's opening-up.
Foreign visitors arriving in Shanghai via Pudong International Airport can take a subway ride directly to the expo's venue, the National Exhibition and Convention Center (Shanghai), where they will be greeted by the event's mascot "Jinbao," a giant panda wearing a blue and yellow scarf embroidered with the CIIE logo.
According to the organizer, yellow represents the Silk Road Economic Belt, while blue represents the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. A four-leaf clover logo is featured on the mascot's hand representing the shape of the exhibition center.
Strolling in the exhibition area of 270,000 square meters, visitors can shop goods from all over the world, from Russian ice-cream, Georgian red wine, Persian carpet, Turkish handicraft products to Egyptian dates.
Damon Paling, trade commissioner of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, told Xinhua that some 90 New Zealand companies will showcase dairy products, fruit, honey and beverages, among other food and agricultural products at the expo.
"The year 2019 is a special tourism year between China and New Zealand. We really look to grasp that opportunity and showcase the best of New Zealand to more Chinese tourists," Paling said.
Shanghai is gearing up for over 300,000 visitors during the expo. The event is going to bring a big inflow of visitors to neighboring cities in the Yangtze River Delta.
FROM SIX DAYS TO ALL YEAR ROUND
Since April, the municipal government of Shanghai has approved 30 year-round platforms for exhibitions and trade of imported goods, many of which are scheduled to open before or soon after the expo.
The platforms are designed to expand the benefits brought about by the six-day CIIE, so that import exhibitions and trade can be available to businesses permanently, said Shang Yuying, director of the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce.
"Mexican food and agricultural products getting exposure via the expo will make their way to ordinary Chinese households with the help of the year-round platform," said Yonanetl Zavala Cadena, president of Shanghai operations at the Mexican Chamber of Commerce in China.
The platform that Cadena is referring to here is the Greenland Global Commodity Trading Hub, which offers a permanent exhibition space for foreign firms to demonstrate their products after the expo closes. The platform also provides services to help introduce exotic products to channels like the high-end supermarket of G-Super in China.
Cadena said that, thanks to the service, dozens of Mexican companies will be encouraged to bring "a bite of Mexico" to the expo, ranging from chilli sauces, blueberry, raspberry, tortilla, seafood, beer, coffee to canned nopal.
Li Wenchang, director of sales at the Greenland Global Commodity Trading Hub, said the hub hosts an African pavilion for 10 countries including South Africa, Morocco, Angola, Senegal and Ghana. Thanks to this initiative, fresh fruit will go from the fields of these countries to the doors of Chinese families.
"Through the expo, the hub is expected to clinch contracts with over 110 national chambers of commerce, leading industry associations and renowned companies from over 40 countries and regions to better help foreign imports reach the Chinese market," said Li.
Tomoaki Komori, managing director of Shanghai Takashimaya Co. Ltd., a renowned Japanese department store, said 85 percent of the company's revenue comes from overseas consumers. The company is eager to expand its business to China. The Takashimaya exhibition center in Shanghai, one of the permanent platforms, will focus on bringing foreign clothing, children's products and food to the Chinese market.
Explorium, a perennial exhibition center owned by Fung Group, a Hong Kong-based company, aims to introduce new technology and high-tech gadgets to China. One of the service platforms is called "Oriental Express," boasting services to help imported products rush to Chinese consumers.
With the slogan "New Era, Shared Future," the CIIE marks China's strong boost to free trade worldwide and endeavors to inject vitality into global economic growth, said Liang Ming, senior researcher with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Cooperation.