The 17th China-ASEAN Expo and China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit kicked off Friday in Nanning, capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
Themed "Building the Belt and Road, Strengthening digital economy cooperation," this year's expo aims to deepen cooperation in trade, digital economy, science and technology, health and other fields to foster a closer China-ASEAN community with a shared future.
With a planned exhibition area of 104,000 square meters, the expo has set up 5,400 booths in the venue. In addition, more than 1,500 enterprises from home and abroad will participate virtually in the four-day event, according to the organizers.
The expo will also host 11 high-level forums and more than 160 economic and trade promotion activities.
Initiated in 2004, the annual expo is an important platform for promoting trade and bilateral relations between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Now at Amazon.com: insulin and inhalers.
The online colossus opened an online pharmacy Tuesday that allows customers to order medication or prescription refills, and have them delivered to their front door in a couple of days.
The potential impact of Amazon’s arrival in the pharmaceutical space rippled through that sector immediately. Before the opening bell, shares of CVS Health Corp. fell almost 9%. Walgreens and Rite Aid both tumbled more than 10%.
The big chains rely on their pharmacies for a steady flow of shoppers who may also grab a snack, or shampoo or groceries on the way out. All have upped online services, but Amazon.com has mastered it, and its online store is infinitely larger.
Amazon will begin offering commonly prescribed medications Tuesday in the U.S., including creams, pills, as well as medications that need to stay refrigerated, like insulin. Shoppers have to set up a profile on Amazon’s website and have their doctors send prescriptions there. The company said it won’t ship medications that can be abused, including many opioids.
Most insurance is accepted, Amazon said. But Prime members who don’t have insurance can also buy generic or brand name drugs from Amazon for a discount. They can also get discounts at 50,000 physical pharmacies around the country, inside Costco, CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and other stores.
Amazon has eyed the health care industry for some time. Two years ago, it spent $750 million to buy online pharmacy PillPack, which organizes medication in packets by what time and day they need to be taken. Amazon said that PillPack will continue, focusing on shipping medication to people with chronic conditions.
In response, CVS and Walgreens, which built thousands of drugstores nationwide to get closer to customers, have been been trying to adjust to the rise of online shopping by offering same-day delivery. Earlier this year, CVS started testing prescription deliveries with self-driving vehicles, and Walgreens experimented with drones that can deliver minutes after being ordered.
Also read: Amazon hiring 100,000 employees
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) concluded its 37th summit and related meetings on Sunday, putting priorities on measures to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and commitments to multilateral cooperation.
Addressing the closing ceremony, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said that leaders of the bloc exchanged views and agreed on many drastic measures to promote cooperation to overcome challenges posed by COVID-19, and to accelerate economic recovery in ASEAN countries.
Many initiatives on cooperation in response to COVID-19 and disease risks have been announced and come into force, including the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund, the ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies, and the ASEAN Regional Center on Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases, Phuc said.
The leaders also adopted the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and its synchronous Implementation Plan to support people and businesses to soon overcome the consequences of COVID-19 epidemic and stabilize the socio-economic life, the prime minister said.
Many important issues on creating a new driving force for the relationship between ASEAN and its partners have been agreed on by the leaders, which affirms a strong commitment to multilateral cooperation as well as economic liberalization, Phuc said.
Notably, under the framework of the event, representatives from ASEAN countries and five partners, namely China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement Sunday, launching the world's biggest free trade bloc.
The signing is of significant importance not only to ASEAN, but also to global trade as it will help to mitigate the negative impacts of COVID-19, boosting business operation activities and create jobs for people, Phuc told the press briefing held on Sunday afternoon.
The first ever ASEAN Women Leaders' Summit was also held over the four days, aiming at promoting women's role and contribution to the bloc's development in the post-pandemic period.
During the meetings, a record high of over 80 documents have been adopted and signed, Phuc said.
The 37th ASEAN Summit and related meetings took place from Thursday to Sunday via video conferences under the chair of Vietnam. After the meetings, a ceremony was held to hand over the ASEAN Chairmanship to Brunei Darussalam.
Founded in 1967, ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
China and 14 other countries agreed Sunday to set up the world’s largest trading bloc, encompassing nearly a third of all economic activity, in a deal many in Asia are hoping will help hasten a recovery from the shocks of the pandemic.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, was signed virtually on Sunday on the sidelines of the annual summit of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“I am delighted to say that after eight years of hard work, as of today, we have officially brought RCEP negotiations to a conclusion for signing,” said host country Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
“The conclusion of RCEP negotiation, the largest free trade agreement in the world, will send a strong message that affirms ASEAN’s leading role in supporting the multilateral trading system, creating a new trading structure in the region, enabling sustainable trade facilitation, revitalizing the supply chains disrupted by COVID-19 and assisting the post pandemic recovery,” Phuc said.
The accord will take already low tariffs on trade between member countries still lower, over time, and is less comprehensive than an 11-nation trans-Pacific trade deal that President Donald Trump pulled out of shortly after taking office.
Apart from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, it includes China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, but not the United States. Officials said the accord leaves the door open for India, which dropped out due to fierce domestic opposition to its market-opening requirements, to rejoin the bloc.
It is not expected to go as far as the European Union in integrating member economies but does build on existing free trade arrangements.
The deal has powerful symbolic ramifications, showing that nearly four years after Trump launched his “America First” policy of forging trade deals with individual countries, Asia remains committed to multi-nation efforts toward freer trade that are seen as a formula for future prosperity.
Ahead of Sunday’s RCEP “special summit” meeting, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he would firmly convey his government’s support for “broadening a free and fair economic zone, including a possibility of India’s future return to the deal, and hope to gain support from the other countries.”
The accord is also a coup for China, by far the biggest market in the region with more than 1.3 billion people, allowing Beijing to cast itself as a “champion of globalization and multilateral cooperation” and giving it greater influence over rules governing regional trade, Gareth Leather, senior Asian economist for Capital Economics, said in a report.
China’s official Xinhua News Agency quoted Premier Li Keqiang hailing the agreement as a victory against protectionism, in remarks delivered via a video link.
“The signing of the RCEP is not only a landmark achievement of East Asian regional cooperation, but also a victory of multilateralism and free trade,” Li said.
Now that Trump’s opponent Joe Biden has been declared president-elect, the region is watching to see how U.S. policy on trade and other issues will evolve.
Analysts are skeptical Biden will push hard to rejoin the trans-Pacific trade pact or to roll back many of the U.S. trade sanctions imposed on China by the Trump administration given widespread frustration with Beijing’s trade and human rights records and accusations of spying and technology theft.
Critics of free trade agreements say they tend to encourage companies to move manufacturing jobs overseas. So, having won over disaffected rust-belt voters in Michigan and western Pennsylvania in the Nov. 3 election, Biden is “not going to squander that by going back into TPP,” Michael Jonathan Green of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a web seminar.
But given concerns over China’s growing influence, Biden is likely to seek much more engagement with Southeast Asia to protect U.S. interests, he said.
The fast-growing and increasingly affluent Southeast Asian market of 650 million people has been hit hard by the pandemic and is urgently seeking fresh drivers for growth.
RCEP originally would have included about 3.6 billion people and encompassed about a third of world trade and global GDP. Minus India, it still covers more than 2 billion people and close to a third of all trade and business activity.
The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, the retooled version of the North American Free Trade Agreement under Trump, covers slightly less economic activity but less than a tenth of the world’s population. The EU and Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, the revised version of the deal Trump rejected, also are smaller. RCEP includes six of the 11 remaining CPTPP members.
India balked at exposing its farmers and factories to more foreign competition. Among other concerns, Indian dairy farmers are worried about competition from New Zealand and Australian milk and cheese producers. Automakers fear imports from across the region. But overall the biggest fear is over a flood of manufactured goods from China.
Trade and investment flows within Asia have vastly expanded over the past decade, a trend that has accelerated amid feuding between the U.S. and China, which have imposed billions of dollars’ worth of punitive tariffs on each other’s exports.
The RCEP agreement is loose enough to stretch to fit the disparate needs of member countries as diverse as Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam and Australia. Unlike the CPTPP and EU, it does not establish unified standards on labor and the environment or commit countries to open services and other vulnerable areas of their economies.
But it does set rules for trade that will facilitate investment and other business within the region, Jeffrey Wilson, research director at the Perth USAsia Center, said in a report for the Asia Society.
“RCEP, therefore, is a much-needed platform for the Indo-Pacific’s post-COVID recovery,” he wrote.
ASEAN members include Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.
Chinese consumers are expected to spend tens of billions on everything from fresh food to luxury goods during this year’s Singles’ Day online shopping festival, as the country recovers from the pandemic.
The shopping festival, which is the world’s largest and falls on Nov. 11 every year, is an annual extravaganza where China’s e-commerce companies, including Alibaba, JD.com and Pinduoduo, offer generous discounts on their platforms. Last year, shoppers spent $38.4 billion on Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms Tmall and Taobao.
This year’s festival will be closely watched as a barometer of consumption in China, which is just beginning to bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic after months of lockdown earlier in the year.
Analysts expect Chinese consumers to spend more on imported products and foreign luxury brands, since many Chinese tourists were unable to travel internationally due to the coronavirus pandemic and tightened travel restrictions.
A survey by consulting firm Oliver Wyman found that 86% of Chinese consumers are willing to spend the same as or more than during last year’s Singles’ Day festival.
“In the last six months or so, wealthy households have actually spent more money,” said Sean Shen, customer and strategy competence leader for EY in Greater China. “We also see that purchases of luxury segment products are increasing because of the international travel restrictions.”
Sales of electronic goods and health and wellness products are also expected to rise, as more people work from home and pay more attention to their health amid the pandemic, according to a report by consultancy Bain & Company.
To help merchants cope with the impact from the coronavirus, online platforms have extended the shopping festival period this year in hopes of boosting sales.
Both Alibaba and JD.com, the country’s two biggest e-commerce companies, began offering discounts on Oct. 21, three weeks ahead of Nov. 11. Some brands and merchants that slashed their prices booked hundreds of millions of yuan (tens of millions of dollars) in sales just hours into the shopping festival.
Tang Chenghui, an electrical engineer who lives in Beijing sees Singles’ Day as an opportunity to stock up on snacks and imported products such as milk from Australia. Ahead of the festival, Tang pre-ordered 3 boxes of duck eggs, 10 packets of soybean milk powder, two boxes of yogurt, coffee and wine.
“I’m buying more snacks this year because I’ve just moved into a new apartment and have enough storage space to stockpile the snacks I like,” said Tang. “Some of these products are really cheap during the Singles’ Day discounts.”
Unlike Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the U.S., Singles’ Day in China is not just about deep bargains. Alibaba pioneered the concept of Singles’ Day and holds an annual gala on Nov. 11 with celebrity performances to entertain shoppers.
E-commerce sales via livestreaming and Alibaba’s annual gala are part of a “shoppertainment” trend which blends shopping with entertainment in order to become more appealing and engaging to shoppers.
Mini games within online shopping platforms entice shoppers with deeper discounts while encouraging them to spend more time within the app.
“Because of COVID-19, brands and retailers have doubled down on e-commerce and livestreaming commerce to drive growth, and it will show strongly on (Singles’ Day) this year,” said Wang Xiaofeng, a senior analyst at Forrester.
But while millions of shoppers spend hours on mini games hoping to snag better bargains, some are irked by the complexities required to win such discounts.
“Black Friday discounts tend to be better, and they are more straightforward,” said Liu Zhirou, a 27 year-old Beijing-based accountant. “Now, I still ask my friends to help me buy things from the U.S. during Black Friday.”
“The rules around Singles’ Day discounts now are getting more and more complicated,” she said. “I usually just spend my money on Black Friday, and buy less on Singles’ Day.”