Canton Fair traders look to emerging markets
Exhibitors at China's biggest trade show are pinning their hopes on orders from emerging markets to bolster falling export revenues amid the sluggish global economy.
Prospects for global trade this year were 'more challenging and complicated', Liu Jianjun, spokesman for the Canton Fair's organisers, warned on the eve of its opening in Guangzhou.
'Economic recovery remains uncertain amid the lingering European debt crisis, high unemployment in the US, inflation, currency fluctuations and rising trade protectionism,' Liu said. 'The outlook for our nation's foreign trade development is complicated and unpredictable.'
Still, Liu is optimistic about the 111th session of the twice-yearly China Import and Export Fair, as it is officially known, which runs until May 5.
He expects a trade balance can be achieved by cultivating buyers from emerging nations such as India and Brazil.
The fair is expected to attract more than 200,000 buyers and trade volume is expected to match that of last autumn's fair, based on flight bookings and hotel occupancy rates.
Earlier media reports said hotels in the city had been heavily booked for days. Room rates had doubled, with five-star hotels charging between 2,500 yuan and 4,000 yuan a night. Luxury hotels near the Pazhou exhibition area, one of the fair's two massive venues, were already 80 per cent booked. It was also reported that discounted flights were scarce, with some schedules already fully booked.
The nation's most established industrial fair, which started in 1957, serves is a bellwether for Chinese exports.
In recent years it has tried to attract more buyers from developing countries given the economic woes of China's two largest trade partners, the European Union and the United States, which have made trading conditions tough, with demand low and competition for business rising.
Demand for places at the fair opening today was high, with 104,000 applications for the 58,546 booths exhibitor booths. A total of 24,124 companies and enterprises from 44 countries are represented - fewer than 2,000 of them established brand names.
The autumn fair in October and November drew a record 209,175 buyers, 1 per cent more than last spring's. The US$37.9 billion in trade deals sealed last autumn was 3 per cent more than the value of deals sealed at the spring fair.
Official figures show the Chinese economy grew 8.1 per cent in the first quarter of this year, its slowest pace in nearly three years, amid weak demand in key export markets and sluggish activity at home.
But China's trade returned to surplus last month thanks to higher-than-expected export growth and an easing of imports from a 13-month high. After a deficit of US$31.5 billion in February, there was a surplus of US$5.35 billion. For the first three months of this year, the trade surplus was US$670 million, according to the General Administration of Customs.
Exports rose 8.9 cent in March from a year earlier, compared with 6.9 per cent in January to February, which are usually averaged together as the dates of the Lunar New Year holidays vary each year.
Imports rose 5.3 per cent, down from a rise of 7.9 per cent in the first two months.
The number of countries represented at the Canton Fair. Exhibitors represent a total of 24,124 companies and enterprises