Twenty-first Century "maritime Silk Road" and the international communication platform

Old Friend, New Expectations — Laos is expecting the 20th CAEXPO

2023-06-16 09:38:42   By:China-ASEAN    Hits:
  1. Written by Lin Han & Su Xu / Translated by Chen Yijia

The overseas exhibition is a key component of the international exhibition pattern — “one CAEXPO plus specialized exhibitions, along with overseas exhibitions” for the China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO). It is also a pragmatic measure for the comprehensive upgraded and unfailing cooperation between China and ASEAN. Since 2015, CAEXPO has successfully held overseas exhibitions in six ASEAN countries including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, which gained widespread acceptance and warm welcome.

Recently, the overseas exhibition of the 20th CAEXPO and China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region Export Fair was held in Lao capital Vientiane from April 24th to 26th in 2023. The hall was quite convivial and bustling with people during the whole exhibition. Statistics published by the CAEXPO Secretariat revealed that the event had attracted an avalanche of merchants and professional visitors to participate in, purchase, and negotiate for cooperation, with the intended transaction volume hitting over 1.6 billion yuan.

After the event, many Lao companies became eager to participate in the 20th CAEXPO to be held in Nanning in September this year, looking forward to further cooperation with Chinese enterprises. As the first event after China optimized and adjusted its epidemic prevention and control policies, the upcoming 20th CAEXPO is beckoning Laos, as well as other participating countries.

Laos, a senior member of CAEXPO

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of both the China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership and the CAEXPO. As the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) came into force and the prevention and control measures against COVID-19 had been optimized and adjusted worldwide, the CAEXPO restarted its overseas exhibitions and designated Vientiane as the second station to facilitate regional economic recovery in the post-epidemic period.

Why did Laos be designated as the second venue to hold the oversea exhibition in the post-COVID period? As a senior member of CAEXPO, Laos has something to say!

From the debut of CAEXPO in 2004 to the 16th session in 2019, Laos has actively participated in the on-site expo for 16 consecutive years and assigned its deputy prime ministers or other superior national leaders to lead the delegations, ranking as the country with the largest number of leaders attending the CAEXPO. In the 17th to 19th sessions affected by the epidemic, Laos’ then prime minister and its deputy prime ministers also delivered video speeches to show their attention and support for the expo.

In 2020, although the sweeping epidemic had posed difficulties to the 17th CAEXPO, people from all walks of life in Laos still participated in the event with great fervor. Moreover, a series of activities, including the Round-table Dialogue Between State Leader of Laos and CEOs from China and the Laos-China Investment Promotion Conference were organized by Laos, the theme country of the 17th CAEXPO, which made the country won admiration from other participating countries.

After that, Laos was reappointed as the theme country of the 18th CAEXPO in 2021 against a special backdrop of the 30thanniversary of China-ASEAN dialogue relations, the 60th anniversary of China-Laos diplomatic relations, and the Year of China-Laos Friendship. This has fully demonstrated the spirit of a community with a shared future that features the two countries standing together and helping each other through thick and thin.

Therefore, one can regard the overseas exhibition in this April as a publicity for the 20th CAEXPO, as well as a tribute to the full support of Laos. The exhibition will galvanize the China-Laos cooperation in various fields, such as economy and trade, accelerate regional economic recovery, promote regional development and prosperity, and deepen the construction of the China-Laos community with a shared future.

CAEXPO, a catalyst for China-Laos cooperation

China-Laos diplomatic relations have lasted for 62 years, and the past several decades have witnessed the rapid growth of political mutual trust, economic and trade cooperation, and people-to-people exchanges between the two sides.

In November 2022, Lao President Thongloun paid a state visit to China at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping. During Thongloun’s stay in China, the two countries’ leaders reached an important consensus, injecting fresh and strong impetus into the development of the China-Laos community with a shared future.

In terms of economic and trade cooperation, China once was the largest investor of Laos early in 2007 and later has become Lao’s largest source of foreign direct investment for a long time since 2013. According to Laos’ Ministry of Planning and Investment, China’s investment projects in Laos reached 862 with the total investment hitting 10 billion USD by 2019. Moreover, people-to-people exchanges between the two sides have flourished as the bilateral cooperation deepened.

However, it should be noted that the CAEXPO, which has been successfully held every year since 2004, is an essential catalyst for the all-round cooperation between China and Laos.

As an effective platform to foster political mutual trust between China and Laos, the yearly CAEXPO has always attracted many leaders of Laos. At the opening ceremony of the 12th session in 2015, Somsavat Lengsavad, former Deputy Prime Minister of Laos noted that the CAEXPO serves as a great platform to advance the cooperation between China and ASEAN in various domains. Its then-president Thongloun also made his remark in his video speech that the CAEXPO has become a significant mechanism for ASEAN to cooperate with China in both economy and trade on the 17th event in 2020.In this context, bilateral economic and trade cooperation also has been galvanized in the CAEXPO. Plenty of Lao products, such as iced coffee, rice, beer, and old tree tea have become popular in China through this international platform.

Lao iced coffee is a perfect example. It once was voted as the world’s TOP 12 Best Coffees by Caffeine, a British magazine about coffee. However, it didn’t sell well before without suitable sales channels. Until 2014, when Wen Yuxuan, general agency of Lao coffee in China, first brought it to the CAEXPO, Lao coffee became a big hit in China. When exploring the Xianhu Night Market in Nanning, Guangxi, our correspondent found it astonishing that there are as many as seven Lao iced coffee shops in this snack street that is merely about 200 meters long where the shops are positioned every 30 meters. The promotion in the CAEXPO has changed Lao iced coffee from being an unnoticed pearl hidden in the inland volcanic plateau to a welcome summer necessity for everyone within just a few years.

Laos old tree tea has the same story as Lao coffee. In 2016, “Saochan” old tree tea made its debut in the CAEXPO and was so sought-after. All the tea products were snapped up soon amid the booming business. At the 19th expo in 2022, Zhang Chaohui, General Manager of Laos Saochan Tea Co., Ltd., said in an interview with the Guangxi Radio and Television that savoring cups of tea is like chatting with old friends. It was the 13thsession in 2016 that he first came here, and he could feel that the merchants had increased year by year.

Furthermore, people-to-people exchanges between the two sides have stepped up through the expo. Both China and Laos have a long history and a unique national culture, and new impetus has been given to the bilateral people-to people exchanges since the launches of CAEXPO and the Belt and Road Initiative. The “City of Charm” pavilion has introduced cities in Laos, like Luang Prabang and Savannakhet, to Chinese people and kept attracting Chinese tourists to travel around Laos. China ranked second among the TOP 5 countries of Laos inbound travelers by September 2022, according to a survey by the Tourism Market Department of Laos’ Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.

Expectations of new opportunities for development 

This year will be a crucial year for the economic adjustment and recovery of global major economies in the postepidemic period. The 20th CAEXPO, coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative and the year in which the RCEP will fully enter into force among its member countries, will definitely contribute to the regional economy recovery by virtue of benefits brought by favorable policies.

The event in Laos was as large as the first one in Singapore. Numerous enterprises from Thailand had been attracted to the on-site venue besides those from China and Laos. Statistics from the CAEXPO Secretariat showed that the total exhibition area reached around 4,800 square meters with nearly 200 enterprises from China, Laos, and Thailand participating in the event and demonstrating products and services in the fields of electronic and electric appliances, food, agricultural machinery and technologies, healthcare, construction materials, and industrial machinery.

On top of that, mainstream media of both China and Laos have seen opportunities through this overseas exhibition, which is an promising prospect of the 20thCAEXPO. Over 1,200 news releases about the event were published by mainstream media of the two sides, including Xinhua, China Media Group, Pasaxon, Khaosan Pather Lao, and Lao National Television, reaching more than 700 million people.

The overseas exhibition was hailed as a great success, and Laos has prepared for new development opportunities brought by the 20th CAEXPO. Chansouk Sengphachanh, Vice Minister of Laos’ Ministry of Industry and Commerce, said that it was a great honor to hold the exhibition, and Laos will make great efforts to appeal its superior national leaders to lead the delegations to attend the expo and ensure the smooth progress of preparations for the 20th CAEXPO.

Nowadays, the business community of Laos feels confident about the upcoming expo and is perfectly willing to join in the event. The Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Lao Chinese General Chamber of Commerce are going to organize member enterprises to take part in the 20th CAEXPO and bring more Laos-featured commodities to enrich the exhibiting structure of Laos’ pavilion.

With the upcoming 20th CAEXPO, the construction of the China-Laos community with a shared future will be deepened; the bilateral cooperation will be boosted; and the economic recovery and development in the post-epidemic period will be facilitated!

Laotian beer enters the Chinese market through the CAEXPO (Photo: Lin Han)


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