The fifth China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) has become a widely anticipated event both at home and abroad.
It will begin tomorrow and end on Saturday in Nanning, capital of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
Organizers use the simple equation 10+1\>11 to illustrate what CAEXPO means to China and the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
As the only international trade and investment event that is jointly sponsored by the governments of China and ASEAN countries, the expo plays an instrumental role in developing the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA), deepening strategic partnerships between the two sides and promoting regional cooperation.
Divided into four sections, including commodity trading, investment cooperation, agricultural applied technology and charming cities, the event will host 3,300 exhibition booths this year.
Both Chinese and overseas companies value the expo as an effective platform to seek business opportunities and have shown growing interest in the annual event, as shown by the applications to reserve 3,500 exhibition booths -- far beyond expectations.
So far, 1,222 booths have been taken up by ASEAN exhibitors, accounting for more than one third of the total stands and creating a record for CAEXPO.
While the five countries of Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar have booked entire exhibition halls, as they did last year, Cambodia has been designated as the "country of honor" and will also join their ranks.
Cambodian Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh said his country valued being made country of honor, Xinhua reported.
The "country of honor", which debuted last year, means ASEAN countries will take turns of being the focus of the show. Brunei was the country of honor last year and the countries are selected alphabetically.
Organizers plan to add more Cambodian elements for the opening ceremony of the expo and decorate the exhibition halls with Cambodian themes.
A large trade delegation headed by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is expected to occupy 150 stands and show off their products at the national exhibition hall. This will be the prime minister's fifth tour to CAEXPO, making him the only ASEAN leader that has visited the expo for five consecutive years.
Chinese and Cambodian political leaders will attend the opening ceremony at the national hall this afternoon.
Meanwhile, high-ranking governmental officials, entrepreneurs and representatives of trade associations from both countries will attend a presentation on Thursday, when it will be briefed on Cambodia's investment environment and the Cambodian side will present cooperative projects to seek investors.
In addition, Cambodian artists will participate at the concurrent gala show - the Nanning International Folk Song Festival, to showcase the charms of their country.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Cambodia. Nearly 600 Cambodian companies have participated at four previous expos, with total trade volume surpassing $20 million and investment contracts worth $900 million concluded.
CAEXPO expands its influence
CAEXPO, as the name suggests, focuses on exchanges between China and ASEAN countries, yet it is also open to players outside the circle.
From the first session in 2004, Japan and South Korea were involved in the event. Moreover, the US and European buyers have also visited previous sessions, including retail giant Wal-mart.
This year five trade delegations from France, Russia, Switzerland, Japan and South Korea are expected to participate at the event.
To increase CAEXPO's global influence, organizers will introduce an Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) roundtable to Nanning.
The roundtable for investment promotional agencies, as part of ASEM that will be held in Beijing from Oct 24 to 25, will take place concurrently with the Nanning expo. Integrating such a high-end conference into the expo's symposium and forum list reflects CAEXPO's openness, organizers said.
Focus on info-tech
In addition to the roundtable, 15 symposiums and forums will take place during the expo. Among them, three are about information communication technology (ICT), the main theme of this year's expo.
During the fifth expo, China and ASEAN are expected to sign a memorandum on jointly building an information network, set up a cooperative framework for Internet safety and release a guidebook for telecommunication services common to both sides.
Since 2007, CAEXPO has selected one of the 10 priority cooperative sectors that China and ASEAN are advancing as the main theme of each year.
Accordingly, the opening ceremony, exhibition arrangements and high-end forums showcase these themes.
This year, the 11 cities presented in the pavilion Cities of Charm all boast of their relatively advanced information industries. Suzhou in Jiangsu province is China's representative.
An expo that works
Originally proposed by Premier Wen Jiabao, CAEXPO started in 2004.
During the past four sessions, the expo has offered a total of 12,869 exhibition booths and attracted 123,500 participants. The total trade volume registered is $4.92 billion.
To date, 37 Chinese and ASEAN chambers of commerce and trade associations have established long-term cooperative relations with the expo.
Over the past four years, CAEXPO has risen to become one of the leading multinational expos, according to organizers, with the number of participants rising to 42,000 in 2007, from 18,000 four years ago.
The China-ASEAN Expo is highly valued not only as a fruitful business event but also as an important multilateral campaign by the countries involved, organizers stressed. Through a series of forums and conferences held during the expo, China and ASEAN have improved the region.
Exhibition fee exemptions
Sichuan exhibitors will be exempted from exhibition fees totaling more than 350,000 yuan ($51,000) for participating in the fifth China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO), according to organizers.
The expo is scheduled to start tomorrow and last through Saturday, in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
Sichuan province, parts of which were severely devastated by an 8.0-magnitude earthquake in May, values the annual event as a golden opportunity to increase cooperation with ASEAN countries and restore its industrial strength after the quake, with 27 companies exhibiting at the fair and occupying 30 exhibition booths.
The exhibitors, mainly involved in the fields of agriculture, electronics, construction materials, and machinery and equipment, include some well-known Sichuan companies like Dongfang Electric, Sichuan Machines and Equipment Import and Export Co Ltd and a subsidiary of Panzhihua Iron and Steel Group, the Metallurgy and Construction Co.
ASEM roundtable tabled
A roundtable for investment promotional agencies, part of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) activities, will be held in Nanning between Oct 22-23.
The meeting concurrent with the fifth CAEXPO, aims to provide a platform for investment in the promotional agencies of ASEM members, and to exchange information and opinions on two-way investment, thus contributing to regional economic cooperation, organizers said.
About 100 representatives of governmental arms, business communities and international organizations from 28 European countries and institutions and 16 Asian countries are expected to attend the meeting this time.
Volunteers are ready
More than 70 overseas volunteers have signed up to work at the fifth CAEXPO.
Most of the volunteers, aged between 25 and 40, are government officials from ASEAN countries, who are studying for a training program at the China Guangxi International Youth Exchange Institute.
They have shown a keen interest in their new roles and said they would capitalize on this opportunity to have a better understanding of China.
Special training has been offered to the overseas volunteers and thereby contributes to enhancing the partnership between China and ASEAN countries, organizers said.
Ambassadors of beauty
A beauty contest to become China-ASEAN etiquette ambassador, has recently concluded in Nanning, with China's Yu Yuan, a flight attendant from Shenzhen Airlines, winning the championship.
More than 3,000 Chinese and ASEAN participants entered the contest that was launched in May, and 46 made it through to the final.