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Expo enhances China-Kazakhstan cooperation under BRI Release date: 2023-09-14    Source:China Daily

The China International Import Expo plays a significant role in facilitating cooperation between China and Kazakhstan in the wake of the Belt and Road Initiative, according to officials, experts and business representatives.

"Since its first edition, the CIIE has adhered to its positioning as an international public product, upheld the principles of open cooperation and mutual benefit, promoted high-quality collaboration in the BRI and consistently advocated for expanding opening-up," Shi Huangjun, vice-president of the National Exhibition and Convention Center (Shanghai), said in an address to the Global Conference on the 10th Anniversary of the BRI and the Golden Age of China-Central Asia Engagement event on Sept 7.

The conference was held at Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan.

During Shi's speech, he extended a sincere invitation to parties from Kazakhstan to participate in the upcoming sixth CIIE in early November.

The invitation underlines the CIIE's resolute response to the implementation of the cooperative consensus between China and Kazakhstan reached at the China-Central Asia Summit, Shi said.

It also demonstrates the firm commitment of the CIIE to serve as a platform for Kazakh enterprises to enter the Chinese market and help them tap into the benefits of the Chinese market, he added.

Kazakhstan, recipient of an original proposal from the BRI in 2013, was the first Central Asian country to participate in the initiative. The CIIE was launched in 2018, after the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.

"The first time I heard about the initiative of the Silk Road Economic Belt (later rebranded the BRI), I thought it was a great idea," said Gulnar Shaimergenova, director of the China Studies Center in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan is one of the earliest countries to support the BRI. Since 2018, its businesses have participated in the CIIE for five consecutive sessions, Shaimergenova said.

In 2022, Kazakhstan launched the Export Accelerator, a program for entrepreneurs of small and medium-sized businesses aimed at helping them prepare for the export of goods to foreign markets.

So far, the program has attracted more than 1,000 enterprises, including 300 that have exported for the first time and secured their first export contracts, according to Shaimergenova. She added there is no doubt the CIIE will be a key platform for the implementation of the Export Accelerator program and play a crucial role in promoting global development.

The CIIE has fostered opportunities for businesses from countries and regions involved in the BRI while benefiting the welfare of local people. Over the past five years, the expo has seen an accumulated intended turnover of about $350 billion, with the participation of businesses from 171 countries and regions.

As of now, nearly 1,000 businesses from countries and regions involved in the BRI, including Kazakhstan, have signed up for the sixth CIIE, which has a total exhibition area of 75,000 square meters — an increase of about 20 percent compared to the previous edition.

Zhang Xiao, China's ambassador to Kazakhstan, said: "The CIIE is not just an ordinary exhibition for imported goods. In the current complex international situation, it serves as an important platform that brings together the governments, business communities and academia of China and Kazakhstan. In the future, we will further leverage the CIIE and turn it into a shining business card for Kazakhstan."

Egemberdieva Asel Yerikovna, deputy CEO of QazTrade, said Kazakh enterprises have participated in the expo for five consecutive sessions, and the cumulative "intention to deal" amount has reached $430 million.

For the upcoming sixth CIIE, Qaz-Trade will organize 25 businesses to participate and exhibit Kazakhstan's featured agricultural products, such as camel milk and honey in the food and agricultural products exhibition area.

"These high-quality products are closely related to a vast number of farmers and herders in Kazakhstan. The CIIE will help improve their well-being for a better life," said Yerikovna.

During the event at Nazarbayev University, the CIIE also held a symposium, attracting more than 40 businesses.

"We have operated our factory for 18 years, and this year will be our first time participating in the Import Expo," said a manager of a dairy company in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, adding he hopes the company can leverage the platform of the CIIE to meet more channel partners and expand the influence of its dairy brand in the Chinese market.

The CIIE has helped to introduce more high-quality products from countries and regions involved in the BRI into the Chinese market, thus assisting the Chinese people in pursuing a better life.

Botakoz Yelshibek, a graduate student in international business at East China Normal University, came to China for further studies after graduating from high school in Astana in 2017. "The CIIE has changed me, transforming me from a shy and introverted girl into an outgoing and confident young woman with clear plans for the future," she said.

Since 2020, Yelshibek has participated in three consecutive CIIEs as a volunteer, assisting businesses from Kazakhstan that were unable to send personnel due to the pandemic. These experiences enabled Yelshibek to learn about the huge demand for high-quality products from Kazakhstan in the Chinese market.

"As a young person from a BRI-involved country, I believe the future is full of opportunities; I will strive to seize them and work hard to achieve my dreams," Yelshibek said.

Shigeo Katsu, former president of Nazarbayev University, said the five Central Asian countries, including Kazakhstan, have seen multiple foreign universities establish Chinese language programs. Nazarbayev University has also established cooperation with renowned Chinese institutions such as Tsinghua University and Peking University, selecting outstanding students to participate in exchange programs.

"Nowadays, international political situations are changing constantly and economic pressure is increasing, but I believe in the power of young people," Katsu said.

"To attract the younger generation to the great initiative of the Belt and Road fuels their enthusiasm and dreams. As long as young people from China and Kazakhstan enhance communication and mutual understanding, they will certainly be able to join hands and move toward the next golden 30 years."