CEEC-based firms flock to China’s Ningbo as nation shares devt opportunities
With orders valued at $1.5 billion, Ningbo expo is great success: experts
Published: May 21, 2023 06:23 PM
China The Opportunity

Visitors browse products at the 3rd China-CEEC Expo in Ningbo, East China's Zhejiang Province, on May 19, 2023. Photo: VCG

Visitors browse products at the 3rd China-CEEC Expo in Ningbo, East China's Zhejiang Province, on May 19, 2023. Photo: VCG

Editor's note:

The five-day 3rd China-Central & Eastern European Countries (CEEC) Expo concluded in Ningbo, East China's Zhejiang Province, on Saturday, with record high purchasing orders set at the event. Global Times reporters felt the enthusiasm from CEEC exhibitors and their confidence in Chinese economic growth, despite a sluggish global economy and uncertainties on the global market.

The Global Times is publishing a series of articles featuring interviews with companies and institutions seeking development opportunities in China. This is the first installment.

Purchasing orders worth 10.53 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) from CEEC were placed at the third China-CEEC Expo & International Consumer Goods Fair held in Ningbo, where hundreds of CEEC-based companies gathered, showcasing over 5,000 unique products to the Chinese market, according to a statement released by the expo organizer on Sunday.

As China's national-level exhibition catering to CEEC, the expo brought together over 3,000 exhibitors at this year's event, of which 407 were from Central and Eastern Europe that are eager to seek more distributors, partners, and consumers in China.

"The Chinese market is colossal which is developing very fast," said an exhibitor who represents Montenegro-based Falcon Group, a leading chocolate producer in Southeast Europe.

It was the company's debut at the event, showcasing dozens of products which remains unavailable in the Chinese market. "[The Chinese market] has great potential. We're trying to find some distributors through the expo," she told the Global Times.

Aside from chocolate, she also plans to introduce more products to the Chinese market, like honey and cheese, and also plans to promote tourism service to prospective Chinese visitors.

There's huge potential for the export of agricultural products from CEEC to China, Andrzej Juchniewicz, chief representative of the Polish Investment & Trade Agency's office in Shanghai, told the Global Times on the sidelines of the expo.

Food exports to China

"We hope to bring more products such as beef, eggs, and milk from CEEC to Chinese dining tables," Juchniewicz said.

Besides, a service trade exhibition area was set up for the first time at the expo together with traditional products, attracting nine tourism agencies and institutions and 22 ports and logistics service providers from CEEC.

"We have set up a branch in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, offering logistics services for trading between China and Europe," Gustaw Chojnowski, Chengdu branch manager of Poland-based Real Logistics, told the Global Times.

While some European politicians have used alarmist rhetoric to dissuade against relying on the Chinese market, Chojnowski said it is not a problem and companies are operating based on whether the market is profitable. "Business is business," he said.

As the country with the second-largest economy, China has seen rapid recovery in post-COVID time. Conversely, advanced economies such as the US and Europe are grappling with rampant inflation, excess debt and rising bank system risks.

At a sideline event held on Monday, China's General Administration of Customs signed an agricultural food product market access deal with the Serbian Ministry of Agriculture.

The participants spoke highly of the efforts and achievements of China and CEEC customs authorities in maintaining security and stability of the global supply chain while promoting cross-border trade.

Visitors walk in the tourism exhibition area of the 3rd China-Central & Eastern European Countries (CEEC) Expo in Ningbo, East China's Zhejiang Province, on May 17, 2023. Photo: Song Lin/GT 

Visitors walk in the tourism exhibition area of the 3rd China-Central & Eastern European Countries (CEEC) Expo in Ningbo, East China's Zhejiang Province, on May 17, 2023. Photo: Song Lin/GT 

Brisk trade 

Bilateral trade between China and CEEC has gotten off to a solid start this year, recording $44.87 billion in the first four months, up 2.8 percent year-on-year. Of the total trade, China imported $310-million worth of agricultural products from the region, surging 43.1 percent year-on-year, customs data showed.

The Chinese market is providing immense growth opportunities for companies worldwide, including those from Central and Eastern Europe, experts said.

Liu Zuokui, a research fellow on European studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that, despite geopolitical uncertainties, they are hoping to expand trade with China. 

"Currently, CEEC need China's market for many products and services," Liu told the Global Times.

For starters, the market is large enough; while at the same time, China has been unswervingly promoting high-standard opening-up and sharing development opportunities with the world, Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Sunday.

In addition, the CEEC and other European countries are not only eyeing the Chinese market, but also the whole Asia-Pacific economy centered on China, as the region sees increasing economic vitality and grows into an economic hub around the world, Cui said.

Looking ahead, it is expected that China and CEEC could develop more complementary advantages and realize common growth, Cui said, adding that the two could jointly explore more industrial sectors such as new energy and digitalization.

"We are grateful that Ningbo offered a wonderful platform for us to learn about the Chinese market and establish connections with more partners," Jonas Huang, an assistant with the Croatian National Tourist Board's Shanghai representative office, told the Global Times on Sunday.

The expo not only provided beautiful booths for exhibitors, but also organized promotional events and "Business to Business events" for participants to communicate with each other.

Huang said, adding that "Croatia is a very important travel destination in Europe; we attach great importance to the Chinese market, and we are eager to welcome the return of Chinese tourists."

Though the expo has come to an end, China's efforts to expand opening-up and share development opportunities will continue. The expo further expanded its Imported Commodities Perennial Exhibition area to 32,000 square meters this year, in which over 30 exhibition halls and about 4,000 products from CEEC are put on display all year round, Tang Feifan, mayor of Ningbo, said.

The perennial exhibition area also set up an e-commerce live broadcast base to let consumers shop for products from CEEC online. 

The exhibition "will never end," Tang said.