Xi's speech may offer clues on China's plan to open markets

Chinese President Xi Jinping will open a major trade fair in Shanghai today that China says underscores its pledge to open up its markets to foreign goods and services.

All eyes will be on Mr Xi’s keynote speech, which could offer clues on the next steps the country will take to open its economy further to foreign players.

The major policy speech, targeted at the global audience at the China International Import Expo (CIIE), comes ahead of Mr Xi’s meeting with United States President Donald Trump later this month in Argentina that has raised hopes of a potential trade deal between the two sides.

The trade fair – focused solely on imports – was first announced by Mr Xi at the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in May last year.

It aims to “promote a new round of opening up at a higher level” and “economic globalisation”, one of China’s vice-commerce ministers, Mr Wang Bingnan, told a media briefing last Saturday. China also wants to import high-quality products and advanced technology to help promote the upgrading of its traditional industries, he said.

This year, over 3,000 companies from more than 130 countries and regions will showcase goods and services they hope to sell to the vast market of nearly 1.4 billion people.

The trade fair, slated to be held annually in Shanghai, will run for six days until Saturday.

Chinese V-P on official visit to Singapore

Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan will make an official visit to Singapore from today to Wednesday, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in a statement yesterday.

During his visit, he will call on President Halimah Yacob at the Istana.

He will also be hosted to lunch by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Mr Wang is in Singapore to speak at the inaugural Bloomberg New Economy Forum on Nov 6, said MFA.

Critics have expressed doubt that the trade fair will produce tangible outcomes in resolving issues such as the lack of a level playing field for foreign firms in China.

Said Mr Carlo D’Andrea, vice-president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China and chairman of its Shanghai chapter, last Friday: “Shanghai was chosen to host the CIIE due to the important role the city has historically played in China’s opening-up process. But meaningful progress can be claimed only when major structural challenges are positively dealt with and international companies can compete on an equal footing with domestic ones.”

He added: “The CIIE may well help many countries to reduce their trade deficits with China. But it will not help Shanghai to become a global centre or China to reduce its internal reform deficit.”

China is ranked 59th out of the 62 countries evaluated by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in terms of openness to foreign direct investment.

Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing arrived here yesterday for a three-day visit to attend the trade fair.

Singapore companies, with their strong branding and commitment to high-quality standards, are in a good position to introduce differentiated products and services to China’s huge and growing domestic market, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said.

“Singapore’s participation in the CIIE will allow Singapore companies to take part in business matching sessions and explore collaborations with Chinese partners to help them enter and expand into China,” the ministry added.

On his arrival, Mr Chan officiated the opening of a logistics redevelopment project by Mapletree near Shanghai Pudong International Airport. He will attend the opening ceremony of the trade fair and tour the Singapore commercial pavilions.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Dr Koh Poh Koon, will also be in Shanghai from tomorrow till Thursday to speak at the China-Singapore Trade in Services Innovation Forum on the sidelines of the CIIE, and to attend other fringe events. Mr Chan and Dr Koh are accompanied by officials from MTI, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Enterprise Singapore.

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