Liverpool-Shanghai link can forge a path for enhanced global trade

Shanghai delegates visiting sister city Liverpool this week for the International Business Festival are urging British companies to attend the inaugural China International Import Expo in November.

Xu Kunlin, vice-mayor of Shanghai, said the new expo is a vital move to further open the Chinese market to the rest of the world, and would enhance global trade and common prosperity.

The comments came on a busy first day at Britain’s flagship biannual trade fair, where 7,000 international businesses gather over three weeks seeking to secure trade deals.

“For businesses with a global vision, the China International Import Expo is something you cannot miss,” said Xu. “China has a big market, where consumption and demand for imported goods grow rapidly.”

China is expected to import more than $10 trillion in goods and services over the next five years, according to government estimates.

The China International Import Expo signifies China’s transition into a consumption-led growth model, in contrast to its previous high growth model fueled by exports. The expo, co-hosted by China’s Ministry of Commerce and Shanghai’s municipal government, will be held annually.

The expo also coincides with the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up, which provides the backdrop to China’s rapid economic development and international business engagement. Earlier this year, President Xi Jinping announced further measures to open China’s market to foreign businesses.

Gary Millar, vice-mayor of Liverpool, said the strong link between the two cities is characterized by trade, partnership, friendship and teamwork. Liverpool City Council will officially organize a delegation of local businesses to attend the China International Import Expo.

So far more than 1,100 companies across more than 100 countries and regions have registered to attend the China International Import Expo, on Nov 5 – 10, Xu said.

Shanghai became sister cities with Liverpool in 1999. Liverpool staged a pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo, and businesses from Shanghai have been visiting Liverpool’s International Business Festival ever since it began in 2014.

Another important link between the two port cities is the similarity in architectural design between Shanghai’s waterfront, also known as the Bund, and the famous Three Graces skyline at Liverpool’s Pier Head.

The festival, an initiative of the Liverpool government, has already boosted UK trade and investment activities by a cumulated 600 million pounds ($800 million). The organizers hope the 2018 festival will impact a further 400 million pounds of trade and investment activities.

Adam Tian, head of HSBC UK’s China Desk, said UK-China trade relations are yet to reach their full potential. “There is great complementarity, as Britain has expertise in many sectors that are of strategic focus in China, including robotics, railway transport, marine energy, new energy, new materials, and pharmaceutical,” said Tian.

Despite the opportunities, British companies still encounter challenges in China, including cultural understanding, local management practices and finding suitable local strategy and business models, he said.