China committed to global service trade amid uncertainty

​By Cui Can
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, September 8, 2023
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In a bustling exhibition hall at the 2023 China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS), visitors immersed themselves in a truly global experience: the aroma of Georgian wine mingles with the scent of Norwegian pine while the jaunty rhythms of Malaysia's Sarawak's traditional folk dances fill the air.  

This year's CIFTIS is more dynamic and international than ever, attracting over 2,400 companies from 59 countries and 24 international organizations to showcase new technologies across a broad range of industries. 

In a time of sluggish global recovery and growing economic challenges, CIFTIS reiterates China's commitment to openness, inclusiveness, shared benefit, and innovation-driven development with an aim to inject confidence into global service trade.

New growth engine

Attending the fair for the first time, Rodrigo Gomez, a trade representative at the Embassy of Argentina in China, said he was amazed by the scale of CIFTIS and the broad participation of international bodies. He added he was eager to explore the technological innovations showcased at the event.

Rodrigo Gomez, a trade representative at the Embassy of Argentina in China, in Beijing on Sept. 3, 2023. [Photo by Cui Can/]

Argentina, a traditional producer and exporter of agriculture products, has in recent years diversified its technological partnerships by collaborating with Chinese companies on farm-related technologies. "Chinese companies are becoming increasingly significant partners for us," Gomez noted. 

"Service trade accounts for 14% of our global exports, but our trade with China is still very low. Even a 1% increase would be transformative for us," he added, saying that Argentina is keen to cooperate with China in healthcare services, e-commerce technologies, and other sectors related to knowledge-intensive services.

Henning Kristoffersen (second from the right), commercial counselor at the Norwegian Embassy in Beijing, introduces Norwegian health supplements and furniture brands during a livestream held in Beijing on Sept. 3, 2023. [Photo by Cui Can/]

In a livestreaming room at CIFTIS, Henning Kristoffersen, commercial counselor at the Norwegian Embassy in Beijing, introduced various Norwegian health supplements and furniture brands to customers all over China using just a cell phone.

With a few taps on their phones, Chinese customers can now easily purchase Norwegian fish oil products online and have them delivered directly to their door. Norway's venture into e-commerce livestreaming at this year's event attracted a large audience and showed the potential of digital trade in services across geographical boundaries. 

Zhang Qi, director general of the Department of Foreign Economic Relations of the Development Research Center of the State Council, attributed the success of these convenient services to the rapid development of mobile internet and digital trade. "China's digital technology is becoming a new engine driving its service trade with other countries," she said.

A recent report released at CIFTIS showed that China's total import and export of digital services grew by 3.9% year on year to $371.08 billion in 2022, with exports growing by 7.2%, surpassing the global average.

Building bridges of cooperation

Georgian exhibitor Giorgi Rtveladze (left) introduces world-renowned Georgian wines to Chinese customers in Beijing on Sept. 3, 2023. [Photo by Cui Can/]

Giorgi Rtveladze, a Georgian exhibitor, introduced world-renowned Georgian wines to Chinese customers in fluent Mandarin. The wines, renowned for their rich flavors, drew many curious visitors at the fair.

Rtveladze has been running his wine business in Hainan, China's booming free trade port, for over three years. Thanks to local preferential policies such as lower tariffs and faster customs clearance, he can import Georgian wines at competitive prices and make a profit.

"CIFTIS allows me to reach more Chinese customers, which helps me to expand my footprint in the Chinese market," he said. He added that he plans to open a Georgian wine promotion center and a restaurant in Hainan by the end of the year. 

Dancers from Malaysia's Sarawak state perform at the 2023 China International Fair for Trade in Services in Beijing on Sept. 3, 2023. [Photo by Cui Can/]

Malaysia's Sarawak state also sees CIFTIS as a platform to attract more tourists from China.

Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, the minister of the Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Sarawak Ministry, said his delegation hoped to engage with key players in the Chinese tourism sector during the fair, strengthening the two side's relationship and cooperation.

Sarawak tourism authorities have been promoting Sarawak as a destination for China's outbound tourists since before the pandemic, attracting 39,933 visitors in 2019. Despite having no direct flights from China, Sarawak has received 23,149 visitors as of July 2023, according to the ministry.

As the curtain falls on this year's CIFTIS, its influence will linger for years to come. Liu Baocheng, a professor at the University of International Business and Economics, said that as China advances the opening-up of its service sector, it will create more possibilities for global investors to benefit.

"Being a major player in global trade and a key supporter of the multilateral trading system, China is expected to revitalize the world trading system and achieve credible outcomes," Liu stated.

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