AS mainland television personality Lin Dongfu and a Shanghai audience of several hundred looked impassively on, German brass quintet Ensemble Rennquintett, Sudwestfunk romped through a Hot New Orleans rendition of Sweet Georgia Brown , replete with cornet and French horn solos. It proved an unlikely moment at the Shanghai Exhibition Centre but one that suitably captured the spirit of Konsugerma, an export promotion fair held in the eastern port city this week. Konsugerma, explained fair organiser and Federation of German Industry vice-president Arend Oetker, was designed to introduce German manufactured consumer and lifestyle goods to a mainland market of 1.2 billion customers. 'German retail exports to the mainland have reached more than 300 million deutschemarks (about HK$1.3 billion) in recent years,' Dr Oetker said. 'That is to say every Chinese person is consuming just 25 cents worth of German products per year.' Echoes of Sir Henry Pottinger and remarks about Lancashire's textile mills 156 years ago nothwithstanding, Konsugerma represented a strategic shift in Bonn's export promotion policies, which traditionally have pushed heavy industrial goods, including chemicals and pharmaceuticals, over light industrial products. Of Germany's 10.9 billion marks in exports to the mainland last year, the largest percentage were capital goods manufactured by fewer than a dozen companies, including BASF, Bayer, Hoechst and Mannesmann-Demag. The hope is that through such events - Germany's Minister for Economics Gunter Rexrodt candidly admitted - Bonn will not only increase consumer goods exports into the mainland beyond the current 3 per cent, but also reduce its trade deficit with Beijing, which last year was 10 billion marks. Still, participating at an exhibition of consumer products - such as Hugo Boss fragrances and Bosch power tools, which by mainland standards are luxurious and affordable to fewer than 5 per cent of the wealthiest urban residents - required a certain suspension of disbelief, especially at a time when the mainland is recording slowing economic growth; and increasing numbers of industrial lay-offs have city dwellers reluctant to part with discretionary money. 'The business we hope to do in the mainland is not for the next three to five months,' explained Manfred Kriebitsch, export sales manager for Jenaer Glaswerk. Jenaer, Mr Kriebitsch said, was attending the fair to identify mainland partners to market and distribute the company's heat-resistant household glass products. The sales manager admitted the regional economic crisis was affecting Jenaer's exports to other parts of the region, particularly markets in Korea and Indonesia. Nevertheless, Mr Kriebitsch said: 'I feel we have a chance here.' Such optimism was shared by Adolf Scholtes, marketing communications export manager for Villeroy & Boch's tableware division. Mr Scholtes said the firm also was looking to meet local partners to sell its high-quality plates and bowls. 'It's our strong belief that this is exactly the right time to come here,' he said. 'We are very hopeful this is not a permanent crisis, and that Asia is definitely coming back.' Beyond the gushing hopes Germany's merchants, another and more sobering view of the mainland's trade economy was also available this week - 1,000 kilometres to the south of Shanghai, in Guangzhou, where the China Export Commodities Fair ended on Thursday. The fair showed a slight decline in the value of signed contracts compared with last October's event, as well as dramatic price slashing by mainland firms to compete with cheapening Southeast Asian and Korean manufactured goods. 'I think all of the mainland is being affected by [the regional] economic crisis,' said Su Hualin, deputy general manager for Guangdong Medicines & Health Products Import & Export Co. Mr Su, flanked by nearly two dozen idle sales agents, said his company was prepared for a decline in business of more than 20 per cent. 'Most of our customers for Chinese medicine products are Southeast Asians and Koreans,' Mr Su explained, pointing to shelves of glass jars packed with various fungi used for making traditional tonics. 'They are just not coming this year.' Trade in medicine and, in particular, Chinese medicine reported dramatic declines at the fair as customers from Malaysia, Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries failed to appear. Event-end statistics were not available but mid-fair results indicated trade in Chinese medicine was down 60 per cent over last year. Also hurt by the region's turmoil were mainland household appliance and electric equipment manufacturers, with total contracts concluded declining 9.28 per cent compared with October's fair. 'The regional crisis has made a big difference in our sales contracts this year,' said Sun Yuanlong, household electric appliance department manager for Anhui Machinery & Equipment Import & Export Corp, representing the province's main appliance makers, including washing-machine manufacturer Rongshida and refrigerator-producer Meiling. 'We have had [Southeast Asian] customers who once ordered 120,000 units say they did not want [to buy] anything this year,' he said. Firms, such as household appliance manufacturer Haier Group, also said they slashed prices as much as 20 per cent to ensure export targets were met.