Surrounded by a dazzling array of wine, juice, chocolate, and olive oil from France, Spain, and other developed countries, the booth of Timor-Leste, a small country in Southeast Asia that has participated in the China International Import Expo (CIIE) for the sixth time, is a little different this year.
In addition to the renowned Timor-Leste coffee, a kind of ready-to-eat duck soup produced in China has caught visitors’ attention.
The soup is made from duck meat with zero hormones and zero pesticides using antibiotic-free farming technology, which is in line with the daily needs and the healthy consumption concept of Timor-Leste people, said Bei Lei, executive curator of the national pavilion of Timor-Leste.
Bei, also general manager of Timor (Shanghai) International Trade Co., Ltd., planned to make an initial investment of 20 million U.S. dollars to establish a duck farming base in Timor-Leste, promoting antibiotic-free farming technology. The investment will likely create more than 200 jobs and benefit local enterprises and industries.
The platform of the CIIE not only brings agricultural products from Timor-Leste to China but also helps introduce advanced Chinese technologies to Timor-Leste, she believed.
Making its first complete return to in-person exhibitions since the onset of COVID-19, the annual expo again focused on China’s dedication to high-standard opening up and shared development in a global economy confronted by myriad challenges.
This year’s CIIE has attracted participants and guests from 154 countries, regions, and international organizations. Over 3,400 exhibitors and nearly 410,000 professional visitors have registered for the event, representing a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels.
Of the 69 countries participating in the national pavilion section of the CIIE, 16 are the least developed countries. The CIIE offers free booths and other supportive policies to help introduce various products from these countries to the Chinese market.
A country with a population of about 1.3 million, Timor-Leste has actively participated in the CIIE since 2018.
“We benefit a lot from the CIIE every year with large transaction volumes and rich exhibition experiences, which makes us more confident,” Bei said.
Seizing the opportunity brought by the import expo, coffee beans from Timor-Leste, for instance, are boarding the fast trains of China’s high-quality development.
The coffee industry is an economic pillar of Timor-Leste. As a major export destination for Timorese coffee, China has supplied funds, personnel, and technologies in recent years to help the country restore coffee trees and improve the quality of raw beans.
Confident in the beans’ prospects in China’s fast-expanding coffee market, Bei set up a baking base for Timorese coffee beans in east China’s Jiangsu Province. Two “champion beans” from the base have won awards at a recent contest in Macao and became popular at this year’s CIIE.
On the first day of the expo, Bei signed deals with two firms from Macao to develop coffee products and souvenirs. So far, Bei has secured orders worth 30 million yuan (4.18 million U.S. dollars) at this year’s expo.
“It is the CIIE platform that has enhanced the international popularity of Timorese coffee and opened a window for it to explore the Chinese market. The orders signed at the expo have brought tangible improvement to the lives of Timorese farmers,” she said.
Li Manxiong, a businessman who introduced Timorese coffee to the Chinese market, brought two coffee brands to this year’s expo. He has also cooperated with the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) government to print landmark buildings of Macao on the coffee packaging.
Li said such efforts will help improve the competitiveness and popularity of Timorese coffee in Portuguese-speaking markets and beyond.
Although this year’s CIIE ended on Friday, the coffee story of Timor-Leste will continue. Similar stories are also unfolding at the booths of other lesser-developed nations.
As a “first-time guest” at the CIIE, Merhawit Teame, deputy CEO of Alliance Star Business Group from Ethiopia, was pleased to find that the group had received nearly 400 containers of agricultural product orders in just three days of the exhibition.
Likewise, a shea butter skincare cream from Benin has attracted the attention of numerous buyers, whose salesperson at the booth spoke highly of the promising prospect of beauty products in the Chinese market.
China is fostering talent development and exchange with the least developed countries – not only in agricultural products but also in the high-tech sector, which yielded fruitful results at the CIIE.
Patrick Bokashanga Kwete from the Democratic Republic of the Congo brought a self-developed artificial intelligence (AI) robotic arm to the expo. Personally benefiting from China’s thriving AI industry, he started an information technology company in Yangzhou, Jiangsu.