A staff member from the Voith Group, a German company in the mechanical engineering field, takes a photo with the company's product at the first China International Import Expo in Shanghai on November 7 (XINHUA)
Stepping into the Mediterranean Village at the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, exhibitors—mostly from Corsica, an island located southeast of the French mainland—exclaimed, "Wow, this place looks exactly like a market on Corsica!"
What made them feel at home in the 500-square-meter area was not only Mediterranean-style interior design and decor, but a variety of products such as olive oil, chestnut beer and ham, which are typical to Corsica. Sixteen companies from the island set up exhibition booths, marking their debut in China.
"The pure natural food from Corsica arrived in Shanghai on November 1," Bertrand Mulot, who represents the Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Corsica, told Beijing Review.
At the first CIIE on November 5-10, more than 800 exhibitor companies from a total of 15 EU member states were in attendance. Since China's launch of reform and opening up, China-Europe trade in goods surged from $3.14 billion in 1978 to $616.9 billion in 2017, up nearly 200 fold. China has been the second largest trading partner of the EU for 13 consecutive years. It is also the second largest automobile export market for the EU and the world largest Airbus market.
It is estimated that in the coming 15 years, China's imported goods and services will exceed $30 trillion and $10 trillion, respectively. This will provide a huge opportunity for European companies.
A trade opening
Located in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, Corsica, the largest island in France, enjoys extraordinary natural conditions. Its latitude, sunshine and soil quality endow the island with a unique variety of products. On their first visit to China, 16 small and medium-sized enterprises brought wine, cookies, beer, meat products and mineral water to the first CIIE.
Pietra is one of the most distinctive Corsican beer brands. Established in 1996, the company is named after a small village. The water it uses to distill its beer is from a valley spring, while the use of ground chestnut in the brewing process makes the beer savory and mellow.
"I hope we can show and market our traditional brewing technique and convey our passion for the product to Chinese customers. The CIIE is the key step into the domestic market," Dylan Sanchez Santacruz, from the export department of Pietra, told Beijing Review.
Also a brand from Corsica, Canistrelli produces traditional cookies with family recipes that have been passed down for generations. Alfred Fenech, the company's founder, said the Chinese market used to be inaccessible to small and medium-sized enterprises like his, but the expo served as a direct, convenient and efficient platform for trade, facilitating face-to-face exchanges with Chinese buyers.
"For a long time, our products were restricted to France and other European countries. We now expect new trade partnerships to develop from the expo," said Michel Masson, Marketing Director of Orezza, a mineral water brand.
Orezza's source of water is near a biosphere reserve established by UNESCO, one of the world's purest water sources free of pollution and nitrate.
"Enterprises from Corsica came to China as a group, introducing our regional characteristics and product features together. The expo opened a window for mutual understanding and cultural exchanges between China and the Mediterranean region," Mulot said. Pure natural products from the French island attracted a number of purchasers at the expo, and many reached a primary intent of cooperation.
Visitors explore the Mediterranean Village area at the first China International Import Expo in Shanghai on November 6 (LIU TING)
Exploring various fields
Many well-known European companies participated in the first CIIE, including Danone, France Power, Lego, L'Oréal, Mercedes-Benz and Schneider. They took the opportunity to showcase their upgraded products and technologies encompassing civil aviation, pharmaceuticals, agricultural products and food, nuclear power, industrial manufacturing and cosmetics to Chinese customers for further development and potential cooperation in the future.
On the second day of the first CIIE, a number of European exhibitors signed purchase contracts or purchase intention agreements with Chinese trading groups and purchasers. On November 6, at the company cooperation forum, the joint venture FAW-Volkswagen and Germany's Volkswagen Group signed a memorandum of cooperation. It is expected that in 2019, FAW-Volkswagen will purchase imported CKD auto parts and whole Audi vehicles from the Volkswagen Group to meet production demand and the requirement for high-quality cars from Chinese consumers.
At L'Oréal's Sharing Beauty With All forum on November 6, a ceremony was held to officially launch a long-term project to recycle empty bottles in China between Terracycle, an innovative recycling company, and Kiehl's, a sub-brand of L'Oréal. During the project, recycling bins will be placed at Kiehl's stores to encourage people to join in protecting the environment.
Laure Lemarquis, L'Oréal China Sustainability Director, spoke about the company's first low-carbon factory in the Asia-Pacific region in Yichang, central China's Hubei Province, at the forum, and introduced ways that L'Oréal can realize a green business with its employees. More eco-friendly materials have been applied in the phase of raw material selection and product packaging, which will be promoted in retail stores, she said.
"Ecological conservation and sustainable development are emphasized in China, and an increasing number of consumers are paying attention to the environmental impact imposed by the products and the concepts of a brand in addition to the product itself. Hence, a series of measures for sustainable development are carried out by L'Oréal China. Through this, we hope to lead a new trend of green living and contribute to building a Beautiful China," Lemarquis told Beijing Review.
She said China's e-commerce market is very huge. In June, L'Oréal China signed a letter of intent for green retail with China's e-commerce giant Alibaba, to reduce the environmental influence caused by the delivery process and promote degradable materials for packaging.
Thirty-six Fortune 500 companies and industry leading companies have already confirmed their attendance at the next CIIE in 2019. An enterprise alliance established on November 6 will serve as a platform for exchanges and cooperation among exhibitors and collect their suggestions for China's economic, trade and business development.
(Reporting from Shanghai)
Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo
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