Virtual pavilion – the platform for real contracts

№ 1, 2021

The Third China International Import Expo (CIIE) took place in Shanghai from November 5 to 10, 2020. On opening the Expo, the PRC President Xi Jinping said that it "demonstrated the sincere desire of China to share the enormous market opportunities with the whole world". This event is not only the first in China but also the first specialized import exhibition in the world, which gathers about four thousand participants and hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world.

The exhibition is of great importance for exhibitors, because thanks to it, more and more companies are discovering the Chinese market, receiving multimillion-dollar contracts. ­Import Expos in 2018 and 2019 brought tangible results: at the first exhibition, agreements were concluded for the purchase of goods and services worth $57.8 billion, at the second – worth $71.1 billion. The increased interest in CIIE suggests that foreign exhibitors acknowledge both the effectiveness of the exhibition itself and the attractiveness of the Chinese market.

Actively developing trade and econo­mic relations with the People's Republic of China and implementing projects within One Belt, One Road initiative, Belarus could not remind indifferent to such an important event. The participation of Belarusian companies in CIIE in 2018 and 2019 brought contracts totaling $270 million to Belarus-China turnover.

In 2020, the exhibition industry was one of the most affected by the pandemic. Most of the events were either canceled or went online. And even though CIIE was one of the few offline exhibition events of the year, many countries and companies, due to the restrictions of the second wave of COVID-19, took part in it remotely, in an online format. This is how it was with Made in Belarus national pavilion of the Republic of Belarus, organized by the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The national pavilion opening cere­mony was held through videoconferencing from the BelCCI. It was attended by the Chairman of the ­BelCCI Vladimir Ulakhovich, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food of the Republic of Belarus Igor Brylo, the Deputy Minister of Economy ­Anzhelika Nikitina, the Chairman of the State Committee on Science and Technology Alexander Shumilin, the First Deputy Chairman of the Presi­di­um of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus Sergey Chizhik, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of ­Belarus, Project Manager of the Department of Subsidiaries and Dependent Organizations of Bank BelVEB OJSC Kirill Rudy, the Counselor for Trade and Economic Affairs of the Embassy of China in ­Belarus Zhao Qiuyan, Director Gene­ral of Beltamozhservice RUE Vadim Babarikin.

Despite the non-standard format of the grand opening ceremony, all the necessary formalities were observed: the participants cut the red ribbon, and the exhibitors got down to work.

The national pavilion showcased all core areas of the Belarusian economy: oil and gas, information technologies, metallurgy, food and agricultural pro­ducts, tourism, and a lot more. 37 companies were participating, including Naftan OJSC, Grodno Azot OJSC, Mozyr Oil Refinery, Belshina OJSC, scientific organizations of the National Academy of Sciences and the Ministry of Education, the Vitebsk Concern of Meat and Dairy Products, the National Tourism Agency, and partners of the pavilion – Beltamozhservice RUE and Bank BelVEB OJSC. In addition to virtual participation, the exposition of Great Stone Industrial Park was presented at CIIE in an offline format.

The Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry had made every effort to ensure that Belarus' virtual participation in the China International Import Expo was as practical as possible. The pavilion was not just an online catalogue of Belarusian enterprises, but an opportunity for enterprises to work on this virtual platform as it had a functional element to communicate. Each virtual stand demonstrated product samples, videos about manufacturers and business proposals, and visitors could negotiate with representatives of Belarusian companies without leaving the office.

Besides, on November 10, the ­Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry hosted the business forum "China – Belarus: trade and economic relations, prospects for cooperation, investment potential", a major event of the business program of the online pavilion of Belarus within the framework of the third China International Import Expo.

Participating in the forum were the BelCCI Chairman Vladimir ­Ulakhovich, the Secretary General of the Silk Road Chamber of International Commerce (SRCIC) Bian Xuexue, the Vice-­President of the China Chamber of Commerce of the Import and Export of Foodstuffs, Native Produce and Animal By-Products (CFNA) Xu ­Xiaohu, the Vice-President of the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Machinery and Electronic Products (CCCME) Shi Yonghong, the Vice-­President of the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Textile and Apparel (CCCT) Zhang Xi'an, the President of the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Light Industrial Products and Arts-Crafts (CCCLA) Wang Zhongqi, the Counselor for Trade and Economic Affairs of the Embassy of China in ­Belarus Zhao Qiuyan, the Head of the Great Stone China-Belarus Industrial Park Administration Alexander ­Yaroshenko, representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food of the Republic of Belarus, large companies of the two countries.

Vladimir Ulakhovich noted that the cooperation between Belarus and China has been developing rapidly. Even during the pandemic, the countries are keen to strengthen cooperation and achieve concrete targets, to increase trade and intensify co­operation in logistics and transport with the help of new logistic chains and new joint projects, including in inter­regional cooperation, which has great growth potential. "China is Belarus' highly important trade and economic partner as well as a strategic partner at the global level in Eurasia. In its turn, Belarus is also China's important partner that can offer its capacities in infrastructure, logistics, technolo­gy, trade and economy. We view the forum as a means to exchange views on the cooperation development and propose new cooperation areas, projects and opportunities that definitely exist," the Chairman of the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said.

The participants discussed the development of trade and economic relations, cooperation prospects, the investment potential of the two count­ries, directions for further development of the Great Stone Industrial Park and the benefits of implementing investment projects within the framework of preferential regimes in Belarus. The speakers elaborated on the possibilities of promoting Belarusian food and petrochemical pro­ducts to the Chinese market, the implementation of projects in logistics, innovations, banking and financial sector.

Despite the changed format of the national pavilion of the Republic of ­Belarus, the participation in CIIE 2020 was a landmark event for Belarusian companies, as it provided the opportunity to showcase new products, indicate the intent to expand cooperation. And this is a part of important image-building activity that preceeds the signing of real contracts.