A view of a Singaporean company's booth at the first CIIE in Shanghai on November 10, 2018 (Photo: IC)
The total exhibition area of Singaporean companies at next month's China International Import Expo (CIIE) will increase by 12 percent from last year, while the number of exhibitors from Singapore will slightly rise, Singapore Business Federation Chairman Teo Siong Seng said on Wednesday.
Those companies are also actively seeking Chinese partners via the CIIE platform to explore business opportunities in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) area, which has replaced the US as China's second-largest trading partner this year.
ASEAN's 10 members include Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.
According to Teo, more than 300 representatives from 84 Singaporean enterprises will attend the second CIIE, compared with 80 companies last year.
They will occupy a total exhibition area of 1,600 square meters this year and mainly display trade in services, food and high-technology products.
About two-thirds of those companies will attend the CIIE for the first time, Teo disclosed.
"Many Singaporean companies chose to wait and see during the first CIIE as there were many other exhibition choices and they didn't understand well the orientation of the CIIE as an international exhibition. But after they heard the effects of the CIIE from other attendees, they decided to come, attracted by its fame," Teo said.
According to Teo, the Singapore delegation for the second CIIE spans a variety of areas such as logistics, finance and education. In particular, about half of the Singapore exhibition area this year will focus on trade in services.
During the first CIIE, Singaporean companies saw the signing of 15 memoranda of understanding, valued at more than S$152 million ($110 million), Teo said.
Teo said that Singaporean companies hope to find more Chinese partners to tap business chances in the ASEAN countries via the CIIE platform, at a time when China-ASEAN trading ties are getting increasingly close.
Sabrina Fu, head of brand and strategic communications and customer advocacy at the Singapore-based United Overseas Bank (China), which will attend the CIIE for the second time, said that as ASEAN is a focus for the bank's business, China's opening-up measures as well as its closer cooperation with ASEAN have created good business chances for the company.
She also told the Global Times that the company's exhibits at this year's CIIE will shift to the needs of individuals and smaller companies based on last year's experience.
China's trade with ASEAN members rose by 14.1 percent year-on-year to $588 billion in 2018, customs data showed.
Zhou Shixin, an associate research fellow at the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies of the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told the Global Times that Singapore can act as a "business matchmaker" between China and ASEAN members, due to Singapore's central geographic location in ASEAN and its remarkable economic growth.
Also, as China's trading relationship with the US retreated because of the latter's protectionism, it was "ahead of schedule" for ASEAN to become China's second-largest trading partner.
"It can be expected that ASEAN will become China's largest trading partner. We hope this goal will be achieved as soon as possible via the help of the CIIE," Teo said.
Many ASEAN members reaped a big harvest at the first CIIE. Indonesia, for example, recorded deals of $4.74 billion during the first CIIE, according to media reports.
More than 3,000 companies from about 130 countries and regions have confirmed attendance at the second CIIE. The second CIIE will be held in Shanghai from November 5-10.