BEIJING, Nov. 11 (CGTN) – In the current global economic landscape characterized by constant shifts, the China International Import Expo (CIIE) has emerged as a stabilizing force for nations to reaffirm their commitment to international cooperation and shared prosperity. Since 2018, China has hosted its CIIE, a first-of-its-kind expo focusing on imports into China, every year. While its existence plays a role, both tangibly and symbolically, in opening the Chinese market to the outside world, this year's expo plays another important role: getting the Sino-U.S. relationship back on track.
Jason Hafemeister, the acting deputy undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Wade Sheppard, senior adviser for North Asia at the USDA, the U.S. Heartland China Association, and nearly 20 city mayors have attended this year's CIIE, in the "strongest-ever delegation" from the United States to this year's event. This engagement breaks with the past when the United States was primarily represented by business leaders at the CIIE.
For the United States, the decision to send a high-level delegation to the CIIE reflects an acknowledgment of the opportunities and potential advantages of engaging with the Chinese market. This expo has established itself as an important event where businesses from around the world can showcase their products and services to the Chinese market. As China continues to open up its economy, American and other international businesses have the chance to tap into a market of unparalleled size and diversity through the CIIE, directly connecting with Chinese consumers and enabling both sides to explore a wide range of economic opportunities.
In addition to providing opportunities for international firms, the CIIE can also play an important role in strengthening domestic consumption in the Chinese economy. As the Chinese economy develops and is nearing the GDP per capita threshold needed to become a high-income country, there is a growing emphasis on boosting domestic demand as a means to drive sustainable, high-quality growth. The CIIE plays a signaling role, indicating support for this economic shift, and a facilitating role in diversifying the range of products available to Chinese consumers.
Turning our attention to the U.S. side, one industry, in particular, is heavily represented at the CIIE: American agriculture, as the USDA and the American Chamber of Commerce have led a group of 17 exhibitors in unveiling a dedicated U.S. agricultural product pavilion. U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns recently welcomed the first delegation of U.S. agricultural leaders to Beijing in nearly eight years.
Despite about half a decade of tense trade relations between China and the United States, U.S. exports of agricultural products to China have rebounded strongly. Since former U.S. President Donald Trump launched his trade war against China, U.S. agricultural exports to China have taken a hit, falling from a high of over $25 billion to only $7 billion. Yet for the year 2022, a new all-time-high was hit of $36.4 billion, despite current U.S. President Joe Biden keeping many of Trump's trade policies in place.
The large U.S. delegation to the CIIE follows many high-level meetings this year between the world's two largest economies, including a visit to China by California Governor Gavin Newsom, and a U.S. visit by Wang Yi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and Chinese foreign minister. This all leads up to a potential meeting between the leaders of both nations during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Meeting in San Francisco later this month.
Engagement like the U.S. delegation to the CIIE signals that the United States is looking to smooth relations with Beijing, and there is plenty of work that can be done on the trade front. There are some low-hanging fruits that the Biden administration could take concerning the tariffs that Trump placed on Chinese imports.
An obvious example would be shoe imports from China. While there are some legitimate reasons for tariffs, one would be hard-pressed to find one for keeping import duties on Chinese-made shoes. There is almost no shoe production in the United States, with 99 percent of shoes sold in the U.S. being imports. Keeping these tariffs in place serves no economic interest, just geopolitical ones, as Americans paid an additional $3.4 billion on shoes in 2021 due to these tariffs. If Biden sells it correctly, rescinding counterproductive tariffs, such as these, could bode well for his domestic political position.
If the current positive trend in the China-U.S. relationship continues, which is something we should all hope for, then maybe a meeting between the two countries' leaders at this year's APEC summit will happen. However, we should caution against some unforeseen events that could derail it, which makes constant engagement necessary for preventing such events from happening. This is why engagements such as the U.S. delegation to the CIIE should be seen as a milestone on the road to a San Francisco meeting between the leaders of China and the United States.
Editor's note: Anthony William Donald Anastasi, a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, is an American Ph.D. candidate at the School of Politics and International Relations at East China Normal University. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.