Interview: CIIE "an eye-opening experience" for Scottish businesses: Scotland's trade representative to China

2021-10-18 14:36:08 GMT2021-10-18 22:36:08(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

by Xinhua writer Sun Xiaoling

LONDON, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- The China International Import Expo (CIIE) has been a great access for many Scottish businesses to learn about the Chinese market, and it really has been "an eye-opening experience" for them, Kevin Liu, head of China at Scottish Development International (SDI), told Xinhua in a recent interview.

His remarks came as the SDI, Scotland's trade and foreign direct investment agency, will attend the 4th CIIE, which is just around half a month away, for the second year running.

This year, the SDI will partner with Greenland Group, a state-owned enterprise based in Shanghai, to bring 37 Scottish companies to CIIE 2021, with 23 brands in the Food & Agricultural Products section, and 14 brands in the Consumer Goods section.

"I think access is really on two levels," said Liu. "The first part of access is to learn about the Chinese market. And the second part of access is to actually meet potential customers and partners."

As to last year's experience, Liu said Scottish businesses and himself managed to meet a lot of different provincial delegations. "Otherwise it would have been really difficult to just go and see them, and travel around a country with the vast size of China."

"So (the) CIIE provided a perfect platform for all of those provincial delegations to come together," Liu said. "And therefore, for Scottish businesses to really get to meet these different parts of Chinese."

In terms of meeting potential customers and partners, Liu said: "It really was an eye-opening experience for many Scottish businesses who were there and regrettably not many were able to travel to China because of COVID restrictions."

"However, I think (the) CIIE also provided a really strong hybrid format so that a lot of our companies were able to meet with potential Chinese customers virtually that was a very positive engagement as well," he added.

Asked about if the Chinese market is important for Scottish businesses, Liu answered: "Absolutely."

Noting that exports to China have been impacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Liu said: "We're really keen to recover that figure up to where it was before 2019 and hopefully build on it in future years."

Asked about sectors in which businesses of the two sides could strengthen cooperation, Liu said: "Every single one of them."

"So I think on the whole, most of our exports to China have been in the food and drink industry. Whiskey, salmon and other seafood products alone account for about one third of Scottish exports to China," he said. "A lot of that has been disrupted because of COVID and that needs to be strengthened again."

"But across the board, life sciences, health care, digital services, financial technology and also the energy industry are all sectors that traditionally Scotland has had a very strong tie up with China," Liu added.

Voicing strong confidence in the prospect of the cooperation, he said he believes that face-to-face meetings will enable people to "see each other in the eyes and conclude business deals".

"It's still a huge part of cross border international trade, but I am confident that once we recover to what ever was before, under the new normal that we are able to strengthen that relationship between Scotland and China," he said.

Looking ahead about the outlook of the Chinese market in the post-pandemic era, Liu said China's market would become even more important.

"When you look back at last year, Chinese economy was pretty much the first to recover during the hit of COVID and you're seeing the strength of the rebound of the Chinese retail market, especially the role that e-commerce played in helping ensure that goods and services were still moving across as a fast market."

"The fact (is) that China's domestic market is still so resilient despite numerous external and internal shocks. I think China's market would become even more important, not only for Scotland, but also the rest of the world."

The CIIE is the first dedicated import exhibition in the world and has seen fruitful outcomes in the past three expos. The 4th CIIE is slated to be held offline in Shanghai from Nov. 5 to 10 this year. Enditem