China’s economic transformation from a major manufacturing power to an active leader in digital innovation with rapid growth in artificial intelligence and e-commerce has impressed Mona Mato, trade commissioner of Pacific Trade Invest China.

Mato, whose organisation promotes trade and investment opportunities between Pacific Island countries and China, said he has also noticed a significant change in Chinese consumers’ attitudes, which have evolved from a relatively price-sensitive mindset to the pursuit of more upmarket products.

“These transformations by China have provided a significant step for Pacific Island countries’ export growth in value-added products in order to meet growing demand and potential for high-end, low-volume products in China,” he told China Daily.

Since Pacific Island countries started establishing diplomatic ties with China in the 1970s, the two sides have continued to expand cooperation and exchanges in more than 20 fields including trade and investment.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, China’s total trade volume with Pacific Island countries with which it has diplomatic ties was US$5.3 billion last year, and its accumulated investment has reached US$2.72 billion so far.

“There is always a willingness by Pacific Island businesses to carry out cooperation with Chinese businesses,” Mato said. “The key is to grow the partnership together.”

In recent years, Pacific Trade Invest China has showcased Pacific Island nations’ products and investment opportunities as well as their culture, heritage and tourism opportunities at several major expos in China, such as the China International Fair for Investment and Trade and the China International Import Expo.

During this year’s CIFIT in Xiamen, Fujian province, in September, Pacific Trade Invest China featured Pacific Island nations’ products at its pavilion, including coconut products, handicrafts and canned tuna from the Solomon Islands, coffee from Papua New Guinea, Tahitian sea salt, artesian water and skincare products from Fiji and health beverages from Vanuatu.

The pavilion attracted up to 10,000 buyers during the four-day expo, and it won CIFIT’s “Most Creative Award Pavilion 2022” award.

“Our participation at these mainstream market shows and expos … is a demonstration of our willingness to grow business relationships and foster partnerships with Chinese businesses,” Mato said.

“It also provides yet another opportunity for gathering strength, impact, coordinating development and encouraging collaboration between Chinese businesses and Pacific economies,” he added.

Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses, Mato said that if there is a time to strengthen the cooperation between Pacific Island countries and China, it is now.

The collective efforts of the Pacific region’s business leaders are at the forefront of prioritizing the region’s economic recovery and sustainability, and the region remains optimistic, he said.