Chinese Government Opens Online Trading Portal

As the world’s most populous country awaits entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Chinese government’s Internet arm unveiled the first government-sanctioned trading portal, ChinaTradeWorld.com, to make the country’s factory and farm products available to outside buyers.

The Chinese Ministry of Trade and Economic Cooperation’s China International Electronic Commerce Center (CIEC) called the move a decision to open a new “Silk Road” in cyberspace. The portal will allow foreign businesses to import goods directly from more than 180,000 factories, farms and production facilities across mainland China, giving visitors access to state-authorized production centers in more than twenty industries.

In addition to pages that link foreign and domestic traders and facilitate transactions, ChinaTradeWorld.com publishes trade and financial news from the Chinese Trade Ministry, English translations of Chinese law, links to international lawyers, translation services and investment information.

The site is a joint venture between Hong Kong-based New ePOCH Information Co. Ltd. and CIEC, which owns a 51 percent stake in the company.

Economic and Political Tool

China’s decision to launch ChinaTradeWorld.com may be a hedge to give the country greater access to worldwide buyers while it awaits a pivotal decision by the World Trade Organization. The country’s negotiations for entry have been delayed recently by stalled talks with the European Union (EU). Chinese officials warn that the country’s trade could be harmed by a failure to join the international body this year.

“ChinaTradeWorld.com effectively opens the gates of China to the world, heightening awareness and understanding of the many business opportunities China presents today,” CIEC Managing Director Benjamin Fok said. “It is the first venture by a Chinese firm to establish a more efficient trade strategy based around the Internet and e-commerce.”

With its focus on government-sanctioned companies and producers, the site is essentially a way for the Chinese government to promote the sale of Chinese goods while also controlling how traders from the outside world interact with the highly-controlled Communist country.

China has been gradually opening its country to the promise of increased trade over the Internet, but has firmly controlled both the country’s Internet infrastructure and ownership of Internet-related companies. The Chinese government has maintained strict rules about foreign ownership of technology companies and the transfer of software and other technology that could expand its 1.3 billion citizens’ access to the Internet and electronic commerce.

Government’s Benevolent Hand?

CIEC is positioning the government’s control of the new trading site as an advantage for outsiders that are looking for an entry point into China. Through its oversight by the Chinese Ministry of Trade, the CIEC says it can ensure that all factories that participate in the site are state approved and, therefore, international transactions will “go smoothly,” presumably without lengthy delays for government review of the deals.

“It also ensures ChinaTradeWorld.com will consistently provide a first-hand picture of regulations, policies and economic information,” CIEC says.

The new Web site is the next step in a gradual evolution that began about 10 months ago with the launch of MeetChina.com. That site, the first officially sanctioned e-commerce portal of China, is owned by US Business Network, Inc., but, like ChinaTradeWorld.com, must adhere to strict rules regarding information and goods posted on the site.

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