Canton Fair

Wen visits trade fair as exports decline

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 April, 2009, 12:00am

Premier Wen Jiabao made a whirlwind visit to Guangdong following his appearance at the Boao Forum as figures showed the export powerhouse has suffered its worst slump in decades, sources said.

The premier visited the Canton Fair held in Guangzhou, after a quick visit to Shenzhen. Sources said he inspected two exhibition halls where household appliances were on display and he talked to exhibitors.

This came as the export-orientated province, once the country's economic engine, recorded its weakest growth in 20 years in the first quarter of this year. Guangdong's GDP growth shrank to 5.5 per cent between January and last month, a marked slowdown from 10.5 per cent growth a year earlier.

Mainland trade officials yesterday admitted they saw no light at the end of the tunnel for the embattled export sector. Mr Wen's sudden visit was not on his announced schedule and reflects the central government's concerns for the province.

This was the third visit by Mr Wen in the past two years.

His visit to the Canton Fair brought hope to many exhibitors. Some believed that Beijing may wheel out more policies to help stimulate the economy.

'We are hoping the central government can deliver more stimulus policies,' said an exhibitor from Ningbo, Zhejiang province, who said her name was Shen.

Ms Shen said that when Mr Wen entered the exhibition hall, all the exhibitors applauded.

She added that manufacturers' main request to Mr Wen and Beijing was for more tax rebates to help them recover from last year's severe hit.

Ministry of Commerce officials said the value of the export orders for the first of three parts of the Canton Fair had dropped by 20 per cent compared with October's session.

The second part of the spring session will be held from Friday to next Tuesday, and the third part will be from May 3 to 7.

Known officially as the 105th Session of the China Import and Export Fair, it is held twice a year and is seen as a prime indicator for the export industry. Fair spokesman Mu Xinhai provided figures detailing a significant drop in business. Mr Mu said that by Sunday, 82,520 overseas buyers had signed contracts worth US$13.03 billion, a drop in value of 20.8 per cent and a decline in the number of buyers of 5.4 per cent compared with October's session.

The global financial crisis, which has resulted in weak demand from overseas, especially from developing countries, is regarded by mainland experts and officials as the main cause of the export recession.

'Amid shrinking foreign demand, our exports will remain low in the short term,' Mr Mu said.

According to the official report released yesterday, demand from the mainland's traditional trading partners - the European Union, Japan, Australia and the United States - dropped by up to 38.6 per cent compared with last autumn.

Fair figures

Demand from the EU, Japan, Australia and the US dropped by 38.6 per cent compared with last autumn

By Sunday, 82,520 buyers had signed contracts worth, in US dollars, $13.03b