Visitors participate in the first China International Consumer Products Expo in Haikou, Hainan province, on May 9.
The first China International Consumer Products Expo, held last month in Haikou, capital of Hainan province, impressed Chinese visitors and corporate buyers with a display of more than 2,600 boutique brands from home and abroad.
The four-day event triggered strong interest among global brand producers and service providers looking for cooperation or to open premises in the island province and explore the Chinese market through the open policy advantages offered by the Hainan Free Trade Port, which is pioneering a further opening-up drive.
In a congratulatory letter to the opening ceremony on May 6, President Xi Jinping said the expo offered a global platform for consumption of boutique goods. He said hosting the exhibition would help China share its market opportunities with the world, assist the recovery and growth of the global economy and enhance China's supply of high-quality consumer goods to the rest of the world.
As China's first international expo focusing on premium consumer products and a key project to support construction of the Hainan FTP, the expo was especially rewarding for Chinese consumers, group buyers and global brand producers.
"For me, visiting the expo was a fabulous adventure among the latest fashion items, technologies and services. It greatly raised my expectations for colorful lifestyle trends in the near future," said Zhao Di, a tourist from Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province. She was one of the 240,000 Chinese consumers who grabbed tickets online to view the latest world-class boutique products displayed by more than 1,500 businesses from 70 countries and regions.
Driven by the strong interest, the number of orders and active intentions for cooperation, more than 80 percent of brand exhibitors－such as L'Oreal, Shiseido, De Beers, Chow Tai Fook, Vacheron Constantin, Omron, KPMG and Ernst & Young－quickly decided that they would participate in next year's event, according to the Hainan government, which organized the expo along with the Ministry of Commerce.
Those responses indicated global investors' enthusiasm to embrace the Chinese market of more than 1.4 billion people, over 400 million of them middle-income earners, experts said.
Speaking at a forum during the expo, Justin Yifu Lin, a senior economist and honorary dean of the National School of Development at Peking University, said: "By 2035, China's middle-income population may reach 800 million. Such a huge market is an opportunity for China and all countries. The rise of new consumers and the upgrading of demand among general consumers provide fertile land for the world to explore."
Ali Obaid Al Dhaheri, United Arab Emirates ambassador to China, was one of 50 diplomatic envoys from 21 countries impressed by the scale and attendance at the expo, which covered 80,000 square meters and was said to be the largest of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region.
"I saw a lot of consumer goods with innovative technology and green life concepts, which showed the world the vitality and potential of the Chinese market," he said.
Zhou Bing, global vice-president of Dell Technology Group, said, "At the expo, we further learned of the strong demand for high-end products from the Chinese market and the upgrading of consumption trends in China."
Carol Luk, a senior manager of business development in China at DFS, the global luxury travel retailer, had been impressed by the Chinese visitors' desire to seek different experiences, see more high-end global fashion brands and explore more luxurious customer services.
Although it has closed, the expo is still having a major impact.
Bernardino Regazzoni, Switzerland's ambassador to China, said a number of Swiss companies such as Richemont group, EHL and DUFRY are seeking investment opportunities in Hainan, while Kirchhofer, the luxury retail group, has decided to establish headquarters in the FTP.
Wang Can, general manager of Zhongying International Holding Group, which is building an industrial park for ocean equipment at Lingao county in Hainan's north, said: "After the expo, a number of enterprises and individuals from Shanghai and Hong Kong came to order yachts at our base. Some companies from the United States, Australia and Singapore have contacted us about cooperating or even planning to settle in the park."
Ministry of Commerce officials said the expo has become part of the national "exhibition matrix" along with the China Import and Export Fair (aka Canton Fair), the China International Fair for Trade in Services and the China International Import Expo. It helps China actively share development opportunities with the world by becoming an important public service platform for opening-up and a practical and vivid example of China benefiting people all over the world.
In line with the new trends, Hainan's offshore tax-free policy has gradually been adjusted from an annual 5,000 yuan per person in 2011 to 100,000 yuan ($15,600) last year.
The range of commodities has expanded from 18 initially to 45 at present, meaning Chinese consumers can buy more global high-end products without going overseas.
Many exhibitors said preferential policies implemented in Hainan－such as visa-free entry, offshore duty-free shopping and a tax-exempt import list－provide a good channel for overseas brands to enter the Chinese market.
A KPMG/Moodie Davitt white paper on Hainan released during the expo said current growth rates suggest that the province could become the world's biggest duty-free market.
Gao Feng, a ministry spokesman, said it will support Hainan in accelerating the cultivation and growth of new consumption formats and models to better serve construction of China's new development paradigm.
Feng Fei, Hainan's governor, said the province is mulling a global consumer boutique center to provide a constant display and trading platform for domestic and foreign consumer products.
Data from the Hainan Provincial Market Supervision Bureau show that since the release of the overall plan for the construction of the free trade port last year, more than 350,000 new market entities have registered in the province, thanks to the constant release of opening-up policies and measures to relax market access and liberalize and facilitate trade and investment.
Experts said the fast growth of business entities show that all sectors hold a promising outlook for investment in Hainan.
Lou Yan, president of the Professional Association of Diving Instructors in China, said: "We hope to seize the opportunity offered by construction of the Hainan FTP to build a world-famous diving destination in Sanya. We will also try to locate our China headquarters in Hainan."
Judith Sun, managing director of Swarovski Crystal Business in Greater China, said, "The Hainan FTP is at the forefront of China's opening-up and we look forward to incorporating Hainan as a special investment destination in our global strategy in the future."