Canton Fair posts disappointing results

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 May, 2012, 12:00am
 

The Canton Fair, one of the country's biggest trade fairs and a barometer of the health of the export sector, ended on a sombre note, with orders from overseas buyers down and traders reporting that most new contracts were kept short-term.

Deals signed across the fair's three weeks amounted to US$36.3 billion, down more than 4 per cent on its previous session last October.

Attendance rose slightly, however, setting a record of 210,831 overseas buyers.

A fall in orders had been expected, with Deputy Commerce Minister Zhong Shan warning in January that the debt crisis in Europe was casting a shadow over global trade. And Commerce Minister Chen Deming said last week that the forthcoming April trade figures would show only 'very small growth'.

Fair spokesman Liu Jianjun said about 86 per cent of deals were smaller and on shorter-term contracts than previously.

'Most buyers were cautious when placing orders and domestic manufacturers also appeared to be hesitant in taking long-term orders because of surging prices for raw materials and fluctuating currency values.'

The number of European visitors to the fair fell by 15 per cent, and US trade deals dropped 8.1 per cent, although business from African buyers posted an increase of 13.5 per cent, reflecting progress in cultivating that new market, Liu said.

The Canton Fair, which started in 1957, is the most established trade show on the mainland and serves as an indicator for the nation's exports.

Chen Yiyuan, who manufactures Christmas decorations for export in Guangdong, said business had been declining since the 2008 financial crisis.

'Chinese manufacturers of Christmas gifts are already feeling an early winter from European and US markets as many US families are recycling their Christmas decorations,' Chen said.

Hu Ming, general manager of a toy company based in Hangzhou, was equally downcast.

'The whole Christmas-gift industry is looking very gloomy, but it's even sadder for small manufacturers,' Hu said.

But the gloom was not all-pervasive. Boukje Koch, director of Ask4Me Group and a Guangzhou-based Dutch designer, said she expected to land twice as many deals as in October, as many of the group's customers were Chinese manufacturers who wish to give a smarter European look to their products.

'From my experience, when sales go down for common products, the need for manufactures to create custom-made goods will always grow,' Koch said.

The Economic Observer newspaper reported yesterday that Vice-Premier Wang Qishan had tasked seven coastal provinces and municipalities with achieving annual trade growth of 10 per cent.

Total trade volumes of Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Anhui, Fujian and Shandong last year accounted for more than 80 per cent of the nation's foreign trade. But most only registered single-digit trade growth for the first quarter of this year.

2%

is the approximate shrinkage in Jiangxi's trade in the first quarter as compared with the same period last year

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