China trade fair offers business opportunities amid pandemic

The 2020 China International Fair for Investment & Trade (CIFIT) in the Chinese coastal city of Xiamen. [Photo/]

XIAMEN -- Attending the 2020 China International Fair for Investment & Trade (CIFIT) in the Chinese coastal city of Xiamen, John Paul Inigo was busy selling a story of success.

Throughout the four-day trade fair, the special trade representative of the Philippine Trade and Investment Center occupied himself with promoting "Make It Happen In The Philippines," a new investment brand, unveiled at the fair by the Philippine government's department of trade and industry. The brand will be used in the future as a corporate identity for the Philippines to attract foreign direct investment.

"The CIFIT is where all the investors are, and Xiamen is an important city in the construction of the Belt and Road," said John Paul Inigo, explaining the decision for choosing the occasion to launch the brand.

As one of the first major international economic and trade events held by China since the COVID-19 pandemic, the CIFIT 2020, which ran from Tuesday to Friday, attracted 1,018 business groups seeking cooperation and investment opportunities.

A total of more than 800 billion yuan ($117 billion) of investments had been agreed upon during the fair.

With the coronavirus battering the global economy and trade, the fair offered a rare chance for global companies to seek new business opportunities. The 2,000-square-meter "Investment Overseas" exhibition area was lined with booths of foreign government agencies and companies hoping to woo new investments or deals.

As this year's Guest Country of Honor, the Philippines had a 400-square-meter national pavilion. With some Philippine enterprises unable to come to the site due to the pandemic, visitors could scan the QR codes in the pavilion to learn about projects and products, or step into the negotiating room and talk to people in the Philippines directly via video link.

"We look forward to sharing our 'Make It Happen' story and partnering with the world's investors at the CIFIT 2020 and beyond," said Ramon Lopez, Secretary of the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry, via video at a forum held during the fair.

Rudi Delport, a South African sales manager, brought the country's KWV wine to the CIFIT. The brand set up its sales and branding organization in China in November 2019. However, as the virus dealt a heavy blow to the catering industry, its marketing campaign slowed down.

"We still have confidence in the Chinese market. Otherwise, we wouldn't come," he said. With the virus effectively under control in China, Delport said their sales are now recovering. He had discussions with potential buyers and also had the chance to introduce the brand to exhibitors from other countries at the fair.

For Romanian Iulia Cristina Ixari, CEO of a Shenzhen-based electronics company, the fair offered a glimpse into the frontier of the industry.

Focusing on themes including new infrastructure, the digital economy, and sci-tech innovation, CIFIT 2020 displayed an array of new technologies and products and held multiple relevant forums.

Bringing to the fair smart devices such as 3D printers and sweeping robots, Ixari also learned about the cutting-edge products of her Chinese peers.

"The Chinese market is very competitive, but I've been here for 12 years, and I think I like that," she said, adding that the fair also made her feel as if "the life we know is back."

The pandemic has exerted an adverse impact on global trade, but also compelled companies to seek new opportunities and go digital amid the crisis, said Aitor Mate, the economic and commercial counselor of the Consulate General of Spain in Guangzhou, expressing the hope that China and Spain could strengthen cooperation in new areas such as robot making, artificial intelligence, and internet technology.

"The pandemic just brought inconveniences to the mobility of people, but the international economy and trade cannot be stopped," said John Paul Inigo. "The CIFIT opens more doors to us. That's why we are here."