Business / Economy

Canton Fair waits for Belt and Road boost

By YANG ZIMAN/QIU QUANLIN (China Daily) Updated: 2015-10-15 07:39

Organizers of the China Import and Export Fair are pinning high hopes on buyers from countries and regions along the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road to provide a much-needed impetus for transactions amid sluggish foreign trade prospects.

The flagship event, which is held twice a year and also known as the Canton Fair, is considered an important barometer of China's future trade activity.

Buyers from countries and regions along the Belt and Road will account for more than half of registered overseas participants at the fair, which will open on Thursday in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province.

"A growing number of buyers from countries and regions along the Belt and Road have expressed interest in the fair, representing new trade opportunities amid export challenges," said Xu Bing, a spokesman for the event.

The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013, seeks to enhance regional connectivity and prosperity along the ancient trade routes.

"We have given priority to companies from the Belt and Road countries and regions in our promotional campaigns. Business delegations have already been sent to European countries like Italy, Germany and France, to attract participants to the event," said Xu.

"We have also, for the first time, invited Australian enterprises to the event. Buyers from countries along the routes such as Ukraine and Jordan are also making their debut at the fair," he said.

More than 350 companies from 28 countries along the Belt and Road routes are participating, according to the spokesman.

"Responses from traditional foreign countries to our invitation have not been enthusiastic this year due to the growing external challenges," said Xu.

China's exports shrank by 1.8 percent to 10.24 trillion yuan ($1.62 trillion) during the first three quarters of the year, and fell by 1.1 percent to 1.3 trillion yuan in September, according to the General Administration of Customs.

"Rising labor costs and currency swings are exerting downward pressure on China's exports. Our conventional advantages are disappearing and some manufacturing facilities are being relocated to other nations. These are some of the challenges that we are facing in attracting overseas enterprises to the fair," Xu said.

However, Customs authorities have said that trade prospects will remain favorable during the fourth quarter as the monthly decline in exports has been narrowing steadily during the past few months. The 1.1 percent fall in exports during September is commendable when compared with the 6.1 percent fall in August and the 9.5 percent decline in July.

Trade volume realized at the fair has been dropping since 2008. The volume during the spring session this year was about $28 billion, down 9.6 percent from the same period a year ago.

"However, trade fairs are becoming more sophisticated and are not just a place for buying and selling products. We are looking to make the Canton Fair an inclusive platform for exchanging information, expanding business network, and getting to know potential customers," Xu said.

Exporters in the Pearl River Delta region, a major manufacturing and trade hub in South China, have already introduced measures to tap the growing markets along the Belt and Road routes.

Yang Shan, general manager of Shenzhen Skymen Cleaning Equipment Co, said the company would set up offices in Australia to better cater to market demand.

"Demand from traditional buyers such as those in Europe declined significantly in the third quarter. We are making efforts to develop specified products to meet the growing demand from countries like Australia," said Yang.

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