QUITO, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- Ecuadorian businesses are getting ready to attend China's first-ever import expo to boost exports and advocate free trade, a business leader said.
"Today China is the standard-bearer of free trade and of greater exchange," Jose Antonio Hidalgo, the president of the Ecuadorian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, said in a recent interview with Xinhua.
With the support of Pro Ecuador, the country's national export and investment promotion agency, the National Federation of Exporters and the chamber of commerce, at least 15 Ecuadorian companies will be participating in the China International Import Expo (CIIE), to be held in Shanghai next month.
The expo has drawn the interest of international companies from more than 130 countries and regions.
"It is a very large fair ... We think it's going to be a positive thing," said Hidalgo, regarding it as "a great initiative" of China to "consolidate the different sectors" the country's consumers need.
The chamber is helping to inform the local business community about the expo and how to attend, as well as "a little bit about the market, whether for exports or imports," so companies can plan ahead, said Hidalgo.
More than anything, the fair will offer countries like Ecuador with the opportunity to make contact with some of the world's largest importers of foodstuffs, he said.
China's opening-up offers a chance to increase trade in goods, especially fresh and processed foods, and in high value-added services, such as tourism, he said.
"That is an opportunity for Latin American countries to focus their comparative advantage in agro," added Hidalgo.
For years, China "has been the world's manufacturer," so it would be "tough" for Ecuador to compete in that area, he said.
"But we have to work hard on the products that do have a good market outlook," such as agricultural produce, services and tourism, he said.
To really take advantage of China's rising demand for goods, regional exporters should build an online presence, because the Asian giant is a world leader in e-commerce, Hidalgo said.
"Include more foodstuffs (online) and diversify the digital platforms to make the most of this consumption. We see the way Chinese society has taken to digital platforms and electronic payments on WeChat," said Hidalgo, referring to China's popular instant messaging platform.
To that end, the chamber, which has about 320 members, is working to help businesses learn about the advantages of e-commerce.
"We want the business sector to not just see the boom (in digital sales) but to be a part of this Chinese e-commerce," said Hidalgo.
"We have to begin to diversify our exports, to introduce other products and heavily promote pitahaya (dragon fruit)," he added.
According to China's embassy in Quito, bilateral trade in the first half of the year amounted to 2.5 billion U.S. dollars, a 21.6-percent increase year-on-year, while Ecuador's exports to China over the same period rose 104 percent.