The mainland's largest and longest-established trade show, the China Import and Export Fair, is moving to spur imports into the country and reduce reliance on overseas shipments amid rising concerns about a global economic slowdown.
Known traditionally as the Canton Fair, the twice-yearly event has increased exhibitors by 24 per cent to 18,721 and invited 14 per cent more people. That will take to 366,000 the number of worldwide buyers taking part in the first session of the event running from today to Saturday.
The fair's deputy director, Xu Bin, said that to encourage imports the number of overseas exhibitors had been increased 71 per cent to 514 and the exhibition area expanded 44 per cent to 15,000 square metres.
'The scale of the fair is the biggest in history,' Mr Xu said of the 103rd spring trade fair.
Despite the sharp increase from a low base last year, the number of importers and their exhibition area remain a fraction of the event's total, a sign the traditional export nature of the fair will not change quickly.
The event is set to see ferocious bargaining between exhibitors and buyers as manufacturers seek to safeguard profit margins by passing on soaring costs while buyers aim to minimise risks related to product safety and softening demand.
The volume of goods sold also will serve as a barometer for the mainland's trade surplus outlook and overseas appetite for Chinese-made goods as the United States credit turmoil deepens.
The mainland's trade surplus has fallen for the first time in more than three years, by 10.6 per cent to US$41.42 billion between January and March from a year earlier. Economists attributed the slide to cuts and cancellations in tax rebates on exports, a stronger yuan and weaker global consumer demand.
The five-day Canton Fair showcases textiles, garments, footwear, electronics, vehicles and heavy machinery and construction materials.
The second session of the fair will be held from April 25 to 29, focusing on toys, clocks and watches, office furniture and ceramics.
Overseas buyers, especially those from the US, Europe and Japan, started pouring into Guangzhou yesterday by rail and air, with many seeking to break into the country's thriving consumer market.