Written by Zhao Yali / Translated by Wei Yingling
With Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) coming into force on January 1, 2022, the world’s most populous free trade area with the largest economic and trade scale and the greatest potential for development has officially set sail. As a booster for the construction of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA), the China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) will seize new opportunities brought by RCEP coming into effect to upgrade and develop itself from serving “10+1” to serving RCEP.
The CAEXPO has always actively served the RCEP cooperation. The 19th CAEXPO, which will be held from September 16 to 19, 2022, while highlighting the focus and features of China-ASEAN cooperation, will make great efforts to serve the RCEP, upgrade the RCEP exhibition, enrich RCEP economic activity and trade activities, to create new opportunities for all and achieve win-win cooperation at a higher level.
CAEXPO takes new measures to serve the RCEP
The CAEXPO has always deepened the important role of serving the “the Belt and Road” and combined with the RCEP negotiation process, to expand the service from “10 + 1” to the RCEP region. It served RCEP activities in multiple fields and levels and provided a broader stage for China and ASEAN to lead regional economic cooperation in the new era.
The 17th CAEXPO coincided with the signing of RCEP, the content of which was presented in the Expo’s design and exhibition. Firstly, exhibition promotion enhances the quality and effectiveness of economic and trade cooperation between the CAEXPO and the RCEP. Many products with higher quality and more famous brands, such as Indonesia KAPAL API Coffee, Laos Gold Champa Tea, Myanmar Beer, etc., were presented by the CAEXPO Commodity Pavilion to meet the needs of the RCEP market better.
Meanwhile, exhibitions and conferences interact effectively, creating new business opportunities in key areas. A series of important meetings and forums were held during the 17th CAEXPO. Representatives, experts, and scholars from political and business sectors from various countries mentioned in their speeches the further strengthening of cooperation with RCEP.
The CAEXPO Secretariat also organized chambers of commerce and enterprises from RCEP countries such as Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), Korea Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Association, Australia-China Business Development Promotion Association, etc. to participate in the conferences, and set up special pavilions for Japan and Korea at the exhibition site.
It is worth mentioning that the 18th CAEXPO actively served RCEP and helped enterprises expand their market space. For the first time, RCEP exhibition areas were set up. The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), Mitsubishi Japan, and Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Corporation (KOTRA) showcased their achievements through RCEP cooperation and national feature products. The Consul General and the Commercial Consul of New Zealand in Guangzhou were invited to attend the CAEXPO for the first time. The Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) China Regional Headquarters signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with the CAEXPO Secretariat, becoming the leading special cooperation agency among RCEP countries.
To embrace the implementation of RCEP, the 18th CAEXPO held a series of events themed on RCEP. More than 30 business associations from RCEP member countries released the Nanning Initiative on Jointly Promoting the Accelerated Implementation of RCEP at the RCEP Economic and Trade Cooperation Business Summit Forum. The CAEXPO Secretariat and the University of International Business and Economics released the Blue Book on the RCEP Business Opportunities Guide.
At the exchange meeting of “Guangxi Tour for Japanese Companies”, Wei Yan, the then Deputy Director General of the Department of Asia, Ministry of Commerce of China, proposed his opinions. Wei Yan said that this meeting had created opportunities for Japanese enterprises to enter the large market in southwest China. At the same time, it drew a blueprint for both sides to promote cooperation within the framework of RCEP and provided a platform for China and Japan to cooperate in third-party markets, including ASEAN
Specially invited cooperation partners to bring RCEP business opportunities
In March 2014, the CAEXPO Secretariat hosted the fourth round of the RCEP negotiation meeting. The meeting was devoted to discussing and forming a consensus on relevant content of the China-ASEAN Expo Special Partner Country mechanism, which deepened the understanding and recognition of RCEP countries in the CAEXPO and Guangxi.
Since then, the Special Partner Country mechanism has been set. The CAEXPO Secretariat represents the co-organizer, inviting RCEP member countries besides China and ASEAN countries to serve as special partner countries based on their applications and preparations. The cooperation region has been expanded from “10+1” to “10+5” and even countries and regions along the “Belt and Road.” Australia and ROK served as the Special Partner Country at the 11th and 12th CAEXPO respectively.
As the inaugural special partner country, Australia showcased its development and business opportunities in all aspects, covering trade, investment, technology, culture, tourism, and education at the 11th CAEXPO in 2014.
Australia attaches great importance to CAEXPO. The former Australian Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb said that CAEXPO has provided numerous opportunities for advancing regional economic and trade cooperation and promoting business interaction. Australia would like to receive strong support from the CAEXPO Organizing Committee for its participation. It is willing to work together to organize relevant high level business talks, seminars, and economic and trade promotion activities to promote closer communication and cooperation with business communities in China and ASEAN.
The Special Partner Country mechanism has brought business opportunities to and facilitated exchanges between enterprises. 2022 marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the Republic of Korea (ROK). The 19th CAEXPO will invite ROK to serve as the special partner country again. By then, ROK will establish a national pavilion to display its national images and featured products and hold a series of activities for special partner countries. It will actively promote China-ROK exchanges and cooperation in many fields and serve to integrate economic cooperation and trade in East Asia.
Seizing new opportunities in regional cooperation
Over the past 18 years, every theme of the CAEXPO has been closely linked to key national development strategies and cooperation between China and ASEAN in key areas. 2022 marks the year when RCEP comes into effect, and the Version 3.0 CAFTA is about to launch.
The 19th CAEXPO will be themed on “Sharing RCEP New Opportunities, Building a Version 3.0 China-ASEAN FTA”. The theme indicates the important consensus between China and ASEAN to see the launching of the Version 3.0 CA FTA and the high-quality implementation of RCEP as soon as possible; it also demonstrates China-ASEAN’s goal of upgrading itself to serve the Version 3.0 CAFTA and RCEP
cooperation, as well as its resolve to create new opportunities for all parties and achieve win-win cooperation at a higher level.
New opportunities brought by the RCEP are showing up gradually. As a modern, comprehensive, high-quality, and mutually beneficial free trade agreement, RCEP will benefit member countries since its implementation will bring a higher level of trade
and investment liberalization and a more secure institutional cooperation environment, and a more open, broad, and integrated market with more potential will be formed gradually.
CAEXPO has served as a bridge among RCEP countries and aimed to promote their cooperation and exchange. Under the new landscape, the CAEXPO would upgrade the RCEP by taking advantage of its established first mover advantage of the cooperation with ASEAN and its stable and mature running mechanism.
The 19th CAEXPO would upgrade the RCEP section, enrich the RCEP economic and trade activities, and reveal the new business opportunities for China-ASEAN cooperation under the RCEP implementation, all of which would help to construct a closer and tighter China-ASEAN community with a shared future.
For the first time, premium exhibition areas for ASEAN and RCEP countries will be set up at the 19th CAEXPO, allowing the countries to showcase their national images, featured products, and cooperation projects. For RCEP pavilions, the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTPA) will set up a Korean national pavilion. At the same time, the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) and well-known Japanese companies such as Mitsubishi Corporation (Guangzhou) and Kirin Beer have confirmed their participation.
In addition, in July 2022, Ms. Wei Zhaohui, Secretary General of the CAEXPO Secretariat, led a working group to visit the Korean Embassy in Beijing. Ms. Wei Zhaohui and Korean and Japanese busi ness agencies, business associations, and renowned enterprises in China had a full exchange of views. They reached a consensus on the preparations for the 19th CAEXPO, such as the Special Partner countries, “Guangxi Tour for Japanese Companies”, “Guangxi Tour for Korean
Companies”, and RCEP relevant activities services.
Seizing hope and adapting to new situations, CAEXPO always seeks innovative changes. From “10+1” to RCEP, CA EX PO is constantly upgrading and developing. What kind of new RCEP surprises will the 19th CAEXPO bring? Let’s wait and see.