Feature: Costa Rican business community eyes China import expo to boost ties

Source: Xinhua| 2019-03-09 15:11:17|Editor: zh
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SAN JOSE, March 8 (Xinhua) -- Costa Rica's government is encouraging the business community to take part in the second China International Import Expo (CIIE), following the success of the first in 2018.

The Ministry of Foreign Trade and the national trade promotion agency Procomer aim to get a head start on the November event in Shanghai, which gives exporters an opportunity to showcase their products for the Chinese market.

"Our priority policy is to make the most of trade accords and the free trade agreement with China. It is of the utmost importance to give exports greater opportunities (and) identify where the bottlenecks are to improve," Foreign Trade Minister Dyala Jimenez told business leaders at a meeting on introducing CIIE.

At the gathering sponsored by Procomer, China's Ambassador to Costa Rica Tang Heng highlighted the success of the first expo and the potential trade opportunities the event presents.

The CIIE "is the first event of its type around the globe that allows the world to share the enormous opportunities of the Chinese market and to build a common market so countries can cooperate with each other," said Tang.

The inaugural expo in 2018 drew 3,617 exhibitors from 172 countries, regions and international organizations, and attracted more than 800,000 visitors.

In 2018, Costa Rica's delegation, headed by Jimenez, "saw firsthand the huge potential of the Chinese market and the responsibilities taken on to promote economic liberalization," said Tang.

Costa Rican coffee maker Coopevictoria participated in last year's expo, and its trade manager Hermann Faith shared his experience with others.

The CIIE allowed the company to fast-track the process of identifying and contacting potential Chinese buyers, a process that can otherwise entail much more time and investment, he said.

"Our experience was very good, because we have been going to the Chinese market for more than five years, but we have always gone looking for buyers. This time it was very interesting because it was the first time we met with people directly interested in the product, and that really minimized the time, the effort and obviously the investment," said Faith.

The sales potential for Costa Rican exports in China is "practically infinite" given the size of the market, he noted.

While the small Central American country would be hard pressed to meet Chinese demand by volume, it could carve a niche for itself as a supplier of more exclusive premium goods, such as gourmet coffee, said Faith.

The expo demands the same level of efficiency from exhibitors as the organizers display, he said.

"It was very well organized and very demanding, that's for sure. You have to be very well prepared starting here in Costa Rica, with everything from samples ... to the paperwork. But the organization is impeccable, really impeccable," said Faith.

Luis Diego Soto, founder of Costa Rican candy maker Turrones Dore, was the first to sign up to attend the 2019 CIIE as part of the national delegation.

"It is a growing market with many, many people who want to try new things," said Soto, who believes products of his company "are right for a growing market like China."

His company is looking to diversify its export markets and the CIIE presents a unique opportunity to do that, he said.

"We have been in Seattle, in France, in Germany with limited success because there is a large offering there. I think in China we can have better opportunities due to the novelty (of the product), the opening-up and the expansion of a large middle class," said Soto.

Fabio Piedra, the head of consulting firm Piedra, Gaitan and Partners, which advises businesses on how to approach the Chinese market, said the expo offers many advantages, mainly by bringing exporters and importers together.

"At the expo, we can identify business opportunities that would be hard to detect on an individual basis. China is very large. The cities represent significant sales potential, but getting from place to place in China is a lot of work," said Piedra.

Last year, six Costa Rican companies showcased their goods at the CIIE, including makers of coffee, cassava and pineapple products.

This year, Costa Rican officials expect to double their exhibition space to 90 square meters in a bid to boost the nation's exports to China.