SHANGHAI, Nov. 6 (Xinhua) -- China offered a huge boost to overseas companies' business confidence by pledging to further open up its economy despite rising protectionism and economic uncertainties globally.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the second China International Import Expo (CIIE) expo on Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said the country is committed to opening up at an even higher level.
"The country will continue to lower tariffs and institutional transaction costs, develop demonstration zones to promote import trade by creative means, and import more high-quality goods and services from around the world," Xi said.
China's opening-up moves such as hosting the import expo injected great impetus to the global economy amid the rise of anti-globalization, said David Liao, president and CEO of HSBC Bank (China) Company Limited.
Busy receiving customers at their booths, multinationals at the expo expected to leverage this platform to promote their products and ink more deals. Some 3,893 companies from 155 countries and regions are taking part in the six-day event.
Since China now strives for more balanced trade, it gives greater importance to imports, said Gan Chunhui, vice president of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
With a population of nearly 1.4 billion people and a middle-income population of over 400 million, China is a strategic market that multinationals never want to miss out on.
Just as President Xi put it in his speech, the Chinese market is such a big one that overseas companies should all come and see what it has to offer.
"China is a great opportunity for us. We are taking the good opportunity of CIIE to showcase our portfolio in China to enhance our visibility," said Mauro De Felip, general manager of Ferrero China.
Hailing the first CIIE a huge success, Bruno Chevot, senior vice president of Danone, said the expo has created a unique opportunity to engage with customers and bring the company's innovation to Chinese consumers faster.
The Paris-based food company has benefited a lot from China's vast market demands. In 2018, the Chinese market contributed approximately 9 percent of Danone's global sales and has now grown to be the company's second largest regional market.
"China is developing so fast, being at the forefront of many dimensions, including science and digital transformations. Danone will achieve better development here," Bruno Chevot said.
"The expo provides a unique platform for global enterprises to reach the Chinese market and help them take a ride on the express train of China's economic development," said David Liao.
Riding on the success of robust economic growth over the past four decades, Chinese consumers have shown burgeoning demand for quality goods and comfortable lifestyles.
Sales of high-end goods have continued to grow rapidly in China this year despite a slowdown in overall economic growth.
Premium cars, for instance, have enjoyed an increase despite a historic decline in the country's overall vehicle sales. It has also become an iconic scene globally that long lines of Chinese consumers waited outside of luxury shops.
"Affluent consumers are willing to spend, which provides abundant opportunities for multinationals," said Gan Chunhui.
At the second expo, big corporates are eager to woo China's swelling middle class by offering better products and services.
"Danone will continue to bring more healthy, high-quality products to the Chinese market as well as relaying healthy dietary concepts to Chinese consumers, meeting their ever increasing need for a healthy life," the company's senior vice president said.
UNSWERVING OPENING-UP EFFORTS
President Xi stressed the need to dismantle trade barriers and stand firm against protectionism and unilateralism, calling on countries to "tear down walls, not to erect walls."
Against the backdrop of trade protectionism and anti-globalization, exhibitors agreed that China is a staunch supporter of free trade and multilateralism, and stays committed to wider opening up.
"Nestle has not only experienced China's great influence on global economic development and outstanding wisdom contribution, but also witnessed the implementation of China's five measures to promote higher-level opening up," said David Fang, vice president of Corporate Affairs of Nestle Greater China Region.
To further open up its market, China has unveiled a series of measures over the past few years, including a shortened negative list for foreign investment, enhanced protection of intellectual property rights and improvement of the business environment.
In late October, the World Bank released a report entitled "Doing Business 2020: Comparing Business Regulation in 190 Economies," saying that China's ease of doing business ranking climbed to 31 this year from 46 last year, and it is also among the 10 economies that improved the most on the rankings after implementing regulatory reforms.
China attracted a record high foreign direct investment (FDI) of 138.3 billion U.S. dollars last year, bucking a global trend of FDI slide. In the first nine months of the year, the country saw an FDI inflow of 683.21 billion yuan, up 6.5 percent year on year.
"No matter how the international situation changes, I believe China will adhere to its active opening up policy," noted Walter Tong, accounts managing partner of Ernst & Young Greater China.