The spring session of China's longest-running trade fair closed in Guangzhou yesterday with a 15.6 per cent year-on-year increase in export orders. Exports booked at the 89th session of the biannual Chinese Export Commodities Fair (CECF), were worth US$15.8 billion. The fair often reflects the state of China's export sector, and this year's spring session was no exception, being in line with China's first-quarter export growth of 14.7 per cent. The value of fair orders was equivalent to 27 per cent of first-quarter exports. 'Although the value of export orders increased, weaker demand in international markets did have an effect,' said CECF secretary-general Hu Chusheng. 'In particular, slower growth in the United States and the European Union contributed to smaller or stagnant orders for raw materials, equipment and electrical machinery.' US export orders were down 0.1 per cent compared with the previous CECF, held in October. But this appeared to be due to slower growth in the US rather than the dramatic deterioration in bilateral relations this month, beginning with the US spy plane crisis on April 1 and culminating in Wednesday's statement by President George W Bush that the US would defend Taiwan from a mainland attack. The number of US buyers visiting the fair increased 9 per cent over the October fair to 6,895. Mr Hu said export orders booked by buyers in the key markets of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan increased by 10 per cent, 12 per cent and 13 per cent respectively over the autumn fair. Attendance by Hong Kong buyers, 33,691 of whom visited the fair, remained flat. But there were 25 per cent more Taiwan buyers at 12,434. This is in line with the dramatic 51 per cent year on year increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) in Guangdong province by Taiwanese entrepreneurs in the first quarter. The Pearl River delta city of Dongguan, a perennial export powerhouse and home to about half Guangdong's 80,000 Taiwanese community, recorded a 150 per cent first-quarter jump in cross-straits FDI. Overall attendance at the fair was up 6.5 per cent over last autumn, with 111,886 buyers from 181 countries and regions. More than 70 per cent of buyers at this spring fair hailed from Asia. In terms of product mix, daily-use household items and home electronic products accounted for US$11.2 billion, or 71 per cent, of the export orders.