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Longstanding investment fair echoes eastern Chinese province Zhejiang’s opening-up ambition

Signing contracts of major foreign investment projects and the launch of a fund focusing on investment in Zhejiang were held during the Forum on Investing in Zhejiang.

In China's eastern coastal province of Zhejiang, the port stands witness to the boom of trade, while the pulse of investment could be taken on an annual symposium.

The five-day 24th China Zhejiang Investment & Trade Symposium (ZJITS) kicked off on May 16 in Ningbo, a coastal city in Zhejiang. In addition, the 3rd China-CEEC Expo & International Consumer Goods Fair was held at the same time, according to the Department of Commerce of Zhejiang Province.

The event's active registration, rich activities and robust exchanges have witnessed the enthusiasm and expectation of global investors for Zhejiang, an open highland in China.

From an investment & trade event to high-level opening-up platform

The ZJITS has witnessed the magnificent course of the province's open economy development and is an important window for the world to observe the trends of Zhejiang's investment and trade.

The ZJITS started in 1999, the first International Consumer Goods Fair was held in 2002, and the first China-CEEC Expo was held in 2019, which is the only national-level institutional exhibition facing CEEC. Gradually the three events formed a grand opening-up exchange platform, creating the most important carrier for Zhejiang to deepen foreign trade and economic cooperation on all fronts.

As an important platform for Zhejiang's foreign economic and trade exchanges, the ZJITS has been held for 24 sessions. Since the China-CEEC Expo was elevated to a national-level institutional exhibition, the ZJITS has gained more influence.

Even the COVID-19 pandemic had not dampened the enthusiasm for investment and trade with Zhejiang at home and abroad. In 2020, the 22nd ZJITS was held online for the first time, inking a total investment of 13.7 billion U.S. dollars. In 2021, the 23rd ZJITS saw the signing of 80 projects with a total investment of 15.1 billion U.S. dollars.

The 24th ZJITS not only has a main forum focusing on investment in Zhejiang, 6 matching exchanges and supporting activities, and over 100 investment promotion activities jointly held by governments at all levels of the province, but also introduced new measures of opening up and promotion such as fund investment, pilot opening of service industry, introduced successful experience of foreign enterprises investing in Zhejiang, and carried out multi-party dialogues among government, enterprises and institutions to share new opportunities for investment and cooperation.

The main forum alone attracted more than 150 guests from over 30 countries and regions at home and abroad, including Fortune 500 enterprises, multinational industry leaders, international investment promotion agencies, intermediary consulting companies, well-known business associations and representatives of some other provinces and cities.

"The business environment in Zhejiang is very good. I have been deeply impressed by Zhejiang's service efficiency in both project implementation and actual operation, which makes us choose to continue to increase our local presence," said attendee Julia Mateos Caro, general manager of Sanofi's Hangzhou plant.

From introduction of foreign investment to going global by local firms

The increasingly rich activities and growing platform of the ZJITS reflect the transformation of Zhejiang Province from a foreign trade hub to an opening-up powerhouse.

Opening-up has always been a major priority of Zhejiang's development. In July 2003, Zhejiang promoted the implementation of the development strategy that calls for provincial authorities to make full use of the province's eight key advantages. The strategy has led the overall development of the whole province since then, and proposed to continuously improve the level of opening-up.

In the past ten years, the actual utilization of foreign capital in Zhejiang increased from 8.33 billion U.S. dollars to 19.3 billion U.S. dollars, with an annual average growth of 8.8 percent, and the accumulative actual utilization of foreign capital reached 141.97 billion U.S. dollars.

In January this year, Zhejiang proposed to accelerate the building of a high-level open province. It seeks to adhere to the organic unity of going global and investment introduction, and promote the upgrading of industrial chain and supply chain system of leading industries, domestic and foreign trade competitiveness, important open platforms and enterprises.

The province aims to build a more resilient, dynamic and competitive "sweet potato economy" that features open development going beyond a city, the province and even the country.

Like a sweet potato whose vines spread out in all directions to absorb more light, rain, and nutrients, so that the tubers that support the roots can grow bigger and bigger, Zhejiang has seen many local economies thrive via open development.

The province is home to the business-minded Wenzhou City, the overseas Chinese merchants hometown Qingtian City, world supermarket of small commodities Yiwu City and global textile hub Keqiao District in Shaoxing City.

In 2022, a total of 934 going-global enterprises and institutions were registered and approved in Zhejiang, an increase of 16.5 percent over the previous year. The registered foreign direct investment amounted to 13 billion U.S. dollars, up 45 percent year on year.

In Yuecheng District of Zhejiang's Shaoxing City, open development has become the consensus of local enterprises. Since the beginning of this year, Yuecheng has organized more than 560 enterprises to participate in 16 domestic and overseas exhibitions such as the intertextile in Shanghai and Hong Kong Fashion Week, and obtained intended orders with value exceeding 250 million U.S. dollars.

Meanwhile, more and more local enterprises are making high-quality global investment around the industrial chain. Sleemon, a Yuecheng-based firm producing high-quality furniture such as mattresses, is stepping up its going-global efforts. In addition to continuing investment in Safin manufacturing base in Thailand, it has also opened an overseas design center. Currently, the company's European design center is in operation in Milan.

From commodity and factor flow to institutional opening-up

In addition to going global and introducing investment led by cities and enterprises, Zhejiang is also keen on integrating into the country's overall opening-up blueprint, embracing a new round of high-level opening-up with institutional reform and innovation.

A number of trade and investment liberalization and facilitation pilot zones have sprung up in various parts of Zhejiang.

For example, Ningbo is China's first demonstration zone for economic and trade cooperation between China and CEEC. Hangzhou is a national comprehensive pilot for expanding the opening-up of the service sector. Wenzhou Ouhai District has been listed as a national innovation demonstration zone for promoting import. Six cities, including Jiaxing, have been designated as demonstration zones for high-level opening-up and cooperation with RCEP countries.

China (Zhejiang) Pilot Free Trade Zone, as the main driver of promoting the province's institutional opening-up, took the lead in expanding the pilot area in China, with 477 institutional innovation achievements made since its establishment in 2017. Among them, 149 pioneering achievements have been practiced across Zhejiang, and 37 innovative cases have been promoted across the country, facilitating the continuous optimization of the opening-up business environment in Zhejiang and beyond.

In order to promote Zhejiang's opening-up via digital economy, the Forum on China (Zhejiang) Pilot Free Trade Zone DEPA and International Commodity Supply Chain (Beilun) was held.

The event also saw the launch of the upgrading action for China (Zhejiang) Pilot Free Trade Zone, the launch of the green trade initiative, the launch of DEPA benchmarking action, and the establishment of the enterprise innovation alliance, which together seek to explore more possibilities for the pilot FTZ to link with the world by leveraging digital economy.

Source: The Department of Commerce of Zhejiang Province