Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the opening of the world's first import-themed national-level expo in Shanghai on Monday, calling it a "trail-blazing" move in the history of international trade development.
A total of 172 countries, regions and international organizations from five continents will showcase their development achievements and international image at the first China International Import Expo (CIIE).
More than 3,600 companies from different countries will hold discussions and seek common development with over 400,000 purchasers from China and overseas.
The CIIE is "a major policy for China to push for a new round of high-level opening-up and a major measure for China to take the initiative to open its market to the world," Xi said when delivering a keynote speech at the opening ceremony.
He again underscored the role of economic globalization, saying that it is "an irreversible historical trend" and provides strong momentum for world economic development.
"All countries should be committed to opening up and oppose protectionism and unilateralism in a clear-cut stand," Xi said, calling for joint efforts to build an open world economy.
In a time when the waves of protectionism and unilateralism are threatening global growth, the expo is expected to muster support for free trade and inject certainty to the world economy.
The fair will be the epitome of the global economy, with various quality exhibits ranging from German machine tools, Japanese robots and U.S. medical equipment to Australian wine, Brazilian farm produce and South Sudanese handicrafts.
With the slogan "New Era, Shared Future," the expo is the brainchild of Xi and is set to become a platform for win-win economic cooperation and a landmark project in the country's higher-level opening up.
China will stimulate the potential for increased imports, continue to broaden market access, foster a world-class business environment, explore new horizons of opening up, and promote international cooperation at multilateral and bilateral levels, Xi said.
"We are encouraged to hear from President Xi the reaffirmation of China's support of global trade, and China's plan to further open itself to the world," said Robert Aspell, president of Asia Pacific for the U.S. agribusiness company Cargill, which is an exhibitor at the CIIE and has already decided to participate in the second expo.
"This is a great start of the first CIIE," Aspell said.
The inaugural expo comes at an inflection point as China transitions to high-quality development and shifts from the world's workshop to the world's market, with the world's biggest middle-income population demanding higher-quality consumer products.
Xi announced Monday China's imported goods and services were estimated to exceed 30 trillion U.S. dollars and 10 trillion U.S. dollars, respectively, in the next 15 years. China has been the world's second largest merchandise importer for nine consecutive years.
Joseph Boahen Aidoo, chief executive of Ghana's cocoa industry regulator Cocoa Board, expressed hope that the fair would open a new chapter in the west African country's cocoa exports.
"We believe that we can expand our market horizons in China. We are talking about 1.3 billion people, and even if we can get one percent of that market, it is very huge. So everybody is looking to China," Aidoo said.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening up, and has seen a flurry of concrete measures taken by the country to open its doors wider.
"China will not close its door to the world and will only become more and more open," Xi said.