China Import and Export Fair, also known as the Canton Fair, is held biannually in Guangzhou every spring and autumn. The exhibition, which has been held every year since 1957, is the largest of its kind in China in terms of scale, variety, distribution of overseas buyers and business turnover.
Canton Fair bigger, but will it be brighter?
Exhibitors glum on deal prospects
Mainland business is preparing for a hard time at this season's Canton Fair, which opens today amid the financial market meltdown.
Nearly 22,000 mainland companies have signed up to take part in the fair, 20 per cent more than in April's spring session, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
That level of participation showed exhibitors' confidence that the fair would drum up export business for them, fair spokesman Yao Shenhong said.
The ministry would monitor the fair closely to assess the impact of the global financial meltdown on China's trade, but it expected to see stable growth, he said.
Huang Yuansheng , general manager of a construction material firm from Xiamen , Fujian province , said not participating would have cost the company a chance to get more business.
'If we can do as much business as last year, it would be a blessing,' he said. 'But we had to come, precisely because business is bad - we have to get ourselves more opportunities.'
Beijing businessman Jiang Lin , whose company sells window and door frames, also said it was essential to take part, although he was pessimistic about getting new contracts.
'We don't know what [the buyers] will think. [But not going to the fair] is a risk that we cannot afford,' Mr Jiang said.
Markku Orn, the manager of a construction machinery firm in Finland, said he would bargain hard with Chinese manufacturers to ensure the cheapest prices. 'We cannot charge our clients high prices,' he said.
The ministry has sent invitations to around 850,000 overseas companies, but it would not reveal how many of them had registered.
For the previous session, in April, it sent 366,000 invitations to buyers around the globe, but only 7,200 registered, with US buyers noticeably absent. The fair is held twice a year, in the spring and autumn.
Contracts worth US$30 billion were signed last autumn, up 10 per cent from 2006.
European companies were the biggest buyers, accounting for 34.8 per cent of the business. They were followed by the United States with 27.4 per cent. Exports to other Asian countries accounted for 23.8 per cent of last autumn's sales.
The fair, one of three backed by the Commerce Ministry, has moved this year from central Guangzhou to the large Pazhou complex. The complex provides 160,000 square metres of indoor exhibition space and 220,000 square metres of outdoor space. The organisers have streamlined the fair into three segments.
Machinery, construction materials and electronics are in the first phase, which starts today and closes on Sunday. Furniture, toiletries and toys are in the second; and textiles, clothes and accessories are in the last.