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Overseas experts applaud China's services trade fair as key platform for win-win cooperation

Updated: Oct 11, 2021 Print
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The Beijing Shougang Industrial Park, one of the twin venues for the 2021 CIFTIS, hosts thematic exhibitions, including one focused on telecommunications, computer and information services. [Photo/Xinhua]

The six-day 2021 China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) is coming to a close on Tuesday, with businesses wrapping up their exhibitions of products and services offline and online, and industry leaders finalizing their thematic conferences.

Welcoming this global event organized by China as a key platform for sharing development opportunities and promoting win-win cooperation, overseas experts said they believe the successful holding of this year's CIFTIS despite the COVID-19 pandemic has again demonstrated China's determination to promote high-level opening-up.

A fresh, grander fair

Themed "Towards Digital Future and Service-driven Development," the 2021 CIFTIS features a section for digital services for the first time, with up to 33 well-known enterprises and institutions participating in the special section.

The CIFTIS this year has attracted more than 12,000 enterprises, up 52 percent from the number in 2020. Representatives from 153 countries and regions signed up for this year's event, compared to 148 last year.

In particular, against the backdrop of the ravaging pandemic, leading health care enterprises and medical institutions from home and abroad are showcasing their latest innovations at the fair, covering such areas as smart health care, traditional medicine and COVID-19 prevention and control.

The CIFTIS is "timely as the world economy is increasingly becoming technology- and services-driven," said Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

"If trade in goods was the main driver of trade growth in the early stages of globalization, the trade in services which is technology-intensive is expected to lead the new wave of globalization," Liang Guoyong, a senior economist with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, told Xinhua.

The CIFTIS will undoubtedly add new impetus to the rebound of trade in services and the recovery of the world economy, help curb the trend of anti-globalization that has been growing since the pandemic, and create an environment of international cooperation with unity, openness and inclusiveness, Liang said.

Making a bigger market cake

During last year's CIFTIS, China made several proposals to the international community, showing its commitment to making its market cake bigger so as to share development opportunities with the rest of the world.

Over the past year, China has turned those proposals into concrete actions. Among the measures are the shortening of the negative list for foreign investment for four consecutive years, and the release of a negative list for cross-border trade in services at the Hainan free trade port.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, China is one of the economies that saw the largest declines in services trade restrictiveness in 2020.

It has services trade relations with nearly 240 countries and regions, and has signed bilateral services trade cooperation agreements with 14 countries. The country has also been strengthening its regulation of the digital industry to provide fertile soil for high-quality growth.

"China's efforts to expand its openness through the CIFTIS will promote the recovery of the global economy," French writer and sinologist Sonia Bressler told Xinhua.

"If you take the services sector, it hardly existed 40 years ago when China was a peasant economy ... China is growing faster in the services sector than any other country in the world," said Stephen Perry, chairman of Britain's 48 Group Club. "Its role in working with the world economy is of great importance."

Perry especially mentioned cooperation in digital areas within the framework of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the success of which can be attributed to "the innovation inside China that is building out along the Silk Road with foreign partners."

Greater commitment to opening-up

While addressing the Global Trade in Services Summit of the 2021 CIFTIS on Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled a slew of new measures to further facilitate services trade, such as exploring the development of national demonstration zones to promote the innovative development of services trade and increase support for services sector in countries participating in the BRI, and setting up a stock exchange in Beijing to serve innovation-oriented small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

In the eyes of Stella Mackenzie, a senior lecturer of the Faculty of Economics and Business Development at the University of Botswana, those measures are "a reiteration of China's continuation of goodwill and willingness to work hand in hand with the rest of the world in a win-win situation."

Lawrence Loh, a professor at the National University of Singapore's Business School, stressed the importance of developing a strong domestic capital market and catering to a broad spectrum of companies -- particularly SMEs.

The connection to international trade will activate a crucial synergy with global progress, especially during this difficult pandemic time, Loh said.

This year's CIFTIS is "a great trade fair," said Tim Crowe, chief executive officer and co-founder of WrxFlo, an Industry 4.0 software developer based in Ireland's western city of Limerick.

It "gives small international companies like WrxFlo the opportunity to be part of the event to increase our profile in China, make new connections and build partnerships for the future," he added.

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