French brands flock to Chinese consumer product expo in S. China’s Hainan, eyeing huge market potential, despite EU’s ‘decoupling’ claims

The 4th China International Consumer Products Expo, Asia's largest premium consumer products expo, in Haikou, South China's Hainan Province Photo: Qi Xijia/GT

The 4th China International Consumer Products Expo, Asia’s largest premium consumer products expo, in Haikou, South China’s Hainan Province Photo: Qi Xijia/GT

The French pavilion, the exhibition hall for French companies and products, officially opened on Sunday at the 4th China International Consumer Products Expo (CICPE), Asia’s largest premium consumer products expo, in Haikou, South China’s Hainan Province, with French businesses flocking to the event to tap into the potential of the booming Chinese market.

Companies in various sectors such as wine and luxury products that are iconic to the French economy are presenting their latest fashions at the expo, a move that experts described as a reflection of the continuous strong confidence in the Chinese market and economy, despite the claims by some European politicians who are calling for “decoupling” from China.

The platform also mirrors China’s ongoing opening-up and welcoming stance to foreign businesses to the Chinese market with their competitive products and services, contrary to the EU’s protectionism against Chinese companies, experts added.

French luxury fashion brand Cerruti 1881 is participating in the CICPE for the first time as part of the French pavilion. The booth showcases selected products from the upcoming new collections of the company.

“The Chinese market is one of the main luxury and fashion markets with consumers looking for quality, elegance and creativity,” Aude Pecheux, chief marketing officer of Cerruti 1881, told the Global Times on Monday.

Following the CICPE, Cerruti plans to open stores in China next year.

Fatima Nouissel, a French wine trader based in South China’s Guangdong Province, is attending the CICPE for a third year and bringing 20 alcohol brands, looking at the consumption potential of the Chinese market. 

In 2023, France remained to be China’s top wine supplier for a third consecutive year, and nearly half of China’s imported wines came from France.

“The Chinese market is recovering, with more visitors attending the CICPE this year,” Nouissel told the Global Times on Monday.

Nouissel said that China’s new visa exemption policies have made it more convenient for travel and doing business in China. 

Speaking on the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France this year, Nouissel said that “We have had a good business experience between China and France, and we are looking for even better relations in the future.”

Pernod Ricard, an international spirits and wine group, attends the Expo for the fourth consecutive year. The French company is showcasing a number of new products at the CICPE. 

Building upon last year’s successful experience and results, Pernod Ricard aims to further promote environmental conservation and sustainable development in Hainan, the company said in a press release sent to the Global Times on Monday.

“Pernod Ricard has witnessed Hainan’s rapid development and its vibrant vitality.” said Jerome Cottin-Bizonne, chief executive officer of Pernod Ricard China. “As an industry leader, Pernod Ricard is looking forward to introducing more high-quality products and exquisite experiences to the Chinese market, creating moments of ‘Créateurs de Convivialité’ together with Chinese consumers, promoting sustainable development practices, and injecting new vitality into the Chinese market.”

Lancôme, a brand under the L’Oréal Group, displayed its new foundation product at the CICPE to promote Sino-French cultural exchanges through the beauty industry. 

L’Oréal, which is participating in the CICPE for the fourth time, told the Global Times that it sees the CICPE as an “important” and “open” platform to inject confidence and vitality into the consumer market.

Cooperative activities between China and France have intensified in recent years. From 2019 to 2023, French luxury brands’ exports to China jumped by more than 100 percent, the Global Times learned from Business France.

Last year’s CICPE drew the participation of 336 French brands, making France the largest participating country only after China. The European country will continue to highlight its presence at this year’s expo, according to Business France.

The active involvement of French companies at the expo showcases their remaining confidence in the Chinese market, their major destination for investment, Chinese experts said.

French companies are eager to embrace the huge Chinese market of 1.4 billion people. Meanwhile, as the Chinese economy is undergoing a transformation toward high-quality development, highlighted by digital and green development, new opportunities are emerging for foreign companies, Wang Yiwei, a professor at the School of International Relations at Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Monday.

Wang said that China’s launch of various large expos, including the CICPE, showcases the nation’s opening-up and welcoming stance toward foreign companies, including those from France and other European countries, to the Chinese market, which is contrary to the West’s “decoupling” attempts toward Chinese companies, including those in the new-energy industry.

There are many areas such as high-tech, agriculture and other consumption products where China and France may find high levels of complementarity, Yang Chengyu, an associate research fellow at the Institute of European Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday.

Yang said that France has many advantageous industries including high-end consumer goods. Combined with China’s consumption upgrading, there is huge room for bilateral cooperation, he said.

Close cooperation at the business level is inseparable from high-level political mutual trust, consensuses reached on some global hot issues and frequent exchanges between officials of the two countries, including the recent visit to France by China’s Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao, which injected more confidence in cooperation.