China is nearest, most accessible major market, says Kazakh trade minister
CIIE offers another valuable platform for BRI partners' products
Published: Nov 08, 2023 09:01 PM
China Kazakhstan Photo:VCG

China Kazakhstan Photo:VCG

The ongoing 6th China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai serves as a catalyst for boosting bilateral trade cooperation between Kazakhstan and China, as bilateral trade is on track for another record this year, Kazakh Minister of Trade and Integration Arman Shakkaliev told the Global Times in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.

Coming less than a month after the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, the CIIE has offered another remarkable platform for countries, particularly those participating in the joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), to promote their products in the Chinese market, which has become crucial for many countries amid the global trade slump, according to attendees at the CIIE. 

"In the current geopolitical context, China is the nearest and most accessible major market. Participation in the CIIE exhibition provides us with a great opportunity to promote Kazakh products in this vast market," said Shakkaliev, who attended the CIIE in person and held meetings with Chinese officials. 

Noting that the CIIE left a deep, positive impression on him, Shakkaliev said that Kazakhstan has a strong presence at the CIIE, with two pavilions - the commercial pavilion and the country pavilion - where Kazakh companies showcase everything from noodles to vegetable oils. Kazakhstan is one of the guest countries of honor at this year's CIIE. 

Such strong participation yielded major results. In the first two days of the expo, Kazakh companies signed contracts worth more than $75 million, and "I hope that there will be more contracts," the Kazakh trade minister said, adding that the CIIE is an essential avenue for strengthening economic and trade ties. 

Arman Shakkaliev Photo: Courtesy of the Ministry of Trade and Integration of Kazakhstan

Arman Shakkaliev Photo: Courtesy of the Ministry of Trade and Integration of Kazakhstan

Amid closer diplomatic ties and cooperation under various frameworks such as the BRI and the CIIE, China-Kazakhstan economic and trade cooperation has been deepening rapidly. In 2022, bilateral trade hit a record high of $24 billion, and the figure reached $21 billion just in the first nine months of 2023. "I'm sure that this year will also give us a new record," Shakkaliev said. 

While some have been spreading negative views of the Chinese economy, Shakkaliev said that while there have been different opinions from different experts, what he saw at the CIIE in Shanghai is that China's economy is sustainable and has vast potential with 400 million middle-income consumers. "Where else can you find this?" he said.

More than just the sheer size of the Chinese market, the CIIE also demonstrates China's commitment to opening-up, despite rising protectionism in some countries. 

"In the face of rising protectionism and geopolitical tensions, multilateral trade events like the CIIE demonstrate a commitment to open, cooperative and mutually beneficial trade. They promote growth, strengthen diplomatic ties and contribute to global stability," said Shakkaliev.

Such a sentiment was echoed by many attendees at the CIIE from around the world amid a global trade slump. The WTO in October significantly cut its forecast for growth in world merchandise trade in 2023 to 0.8 percent from the 1.7 percent forecast in April.

Amid this grim global trade outlook, the CIIE has become a crucial platform for businesses from around the world, particularly from BRI partners such as Kazakhstan, to boost exports to the Chinese market. Underscoring BRI partners' enthusiasm for the CIIE, this year's Country Exhibition welcomed 69 countries, of which 64 are partners in the joint construction of the BRI, according to official data. 

More than 1,500 enterprises signed up to attend the expo, and the exhibition area recorded a year-on-year increase of about 30 percent to nearly 80,000 square meters.

Businesses from BRI partners have been very successful in introducing their products to the Chinese market via the CIIE. Mian Muhammad Zubair, a trader from Pakistan, told the Global Times that the CIIE has provided significant market opportunities for local Pakistani handicraft makers. 

Noting he has received orders for about seven containers of Himalayan salt lamps, Zubair said that "I will be sure to come next year with new products from Pakistan."

Growth in trade with BRI partners has become a highlight in China's foreign trade. In the first 10 months of 2023, China's total trade with BRI partners rose 3.2 percent year-on-year, outpacing the growth of just 0.03 percent in China's total trade, according to official data released on Tuesday. 

Beyond trade, the BRI also helps boost economic development in participating countries through cooperation in various areas.

"Under the BRI, China directs investments into the economies of developing countries, facilitating the adoption of new technologies and the application of artificial intelligence in critical industry sectors. This has a positive impact on the well-being of people," the Kazakh trade minister said.