Shanghai expo sends clear message to Trump
Huge trade fair invites foreign companies to showcase goods to Chinese consumers
Visitors queue at the entrance of the first China International Import Expo in Shanghai: event takes place as US president Donald Trump presses China to reduce its huge trade deficit with the US. Photograph: Johannes EIsele/AFP/Getty
Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys oversaw the signing of €50 million worth of deals at the International Import Expo in Shanghai by Irish companies. These included Glen Dimplex, Cartoon Saloon and Irish Breeze.
“I feel the statement the Chinese president made was very clear, that he’s committed to global trade and to a rules-based system,” she said.
The event is taking place as President Donald Trump is pressing China to reduce its huge trade deficit with the US, stop stealing intellectual property and to tear down barriers to trade, and has introduced extra tariffs of 10 per cent on $200 billion (€175 billion) of Chinese products, which are due to increase to 25 per cent by the end of the year.
For its part, China has introduced levies of about $60 billion (€53 billion) on US goods.
While the European Union has been less vocal than the US, it has urged China to take firm action to open up its market to foreign firms and introduce a level playing field.
“What the EU wants is a level playing field and we continue to work through the EU and the commissioner in terms of making sure that a deal is done that serves our interests as well,” Ms Humphreys said.
One of the headline Irish deals was a memorandum of understanding between Bord Bia and Wyeth China, where the company will source all of its dairy ingredients for its Illuma base brand exclusively from milk from Irish farms participating in Bord Bia’s “Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme”.
The Wyeth agreement is estimated to be worth €110 million annually, Bord Bia chief executive Tara McCarthy said.
“This agreement is very good news for the Irish dairy industry and a vote of confidence in the Irish food sector by one of its strategic partners committed to working with us on sharing insights on Chinese consumers and building awareness of Ireland’s premium food offering in the market,” she said.
Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon said the US-China trade war had not had an impact, but Brexit was definitely driving efforts to boost trade to the region.
“You can see it on this trade mission in terms of the companies that are new to the market. Irrespective of where we end up on Brexit, companies having a more diversified basket of markets is good for them,” she said.
Tens of thousands of buyers poured into the Shanghai expo, keen to fulfil President Xi Jinping’s promise to support globalisation and open up the world’s second-biggest economy by rebranding China as a major importer.
More than 3,000 foreign companies, including 24 from Ireland, have attended the expo, which is spread over a vast concourse of 1.5 million square metres, a powerful statement by China that it packs a punch as a global market despite the negative impact of Donald Trump’s trade war.
The fair has a slightly random feel to it – normally these trade shows showcase a single industry – but the expo is presented as an opportunity for the world to present its best products to the hungry Chinese consumer. Over 150,000 buyers from across China are set to visit over its six-day run.