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Canton Fair: record overseas visitors fail to inspire bumper sales, but some Chinese exporters fare ‘much better’

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And this was despite a record 246,000 international visitors – up by 24.5 from the autumn edition that took place in October and November – flocking to the fair in defiance of pouring rain which had wreaked havoc in other parts of southern China.
Nearly two-thirds of the foreign visitors to the fair were from countries that are members of China’s signature Belt and Road Initiative, according to the organisers, signing deals worth US$13.86 billion.
Attendees said they were curious to inspect goods from in-demand sectors, including alternative energy, despite criticism from Western countries about China flooding overseas markets with low-cost exports.

Visitors from Europe and the US only numbered 50,000 – representing less than a quarter of all overseas buyers – despite growing by 11 per cent from November’s edition.

Organisers did not disclose transaction data for European and American buyers, other than to say that the per capita price per customer was “high”.

By contrast, around 160,000 visitors attended from countries that have signed up to China’s belt and road plan, representing an increase of 25 per cent from the last fair.

Interest came mostly from India and Middle Eastern countries, said Xie Junping, a fabric exporter from the eastern province of Zhejiang.

Not too many American buyers were interested in our new products

Yan Wei, sales manager

Orders were “much better” than in October and November, he said, estimating a 20 per cent increase.

Products from China’s booming alternative energy and smart tech sector dominated the displays during the fair, with visitors flocking to booths for electric vehicles and smart mobility devices.

Yan Wei, a sales manager from the Yueda Intelligent Agricultural Equipment in the eastern province of Jiangsu, said visitor numbers and order volumes were “much better” than the previous fair in the autumn, estimating that new orders had increased by 10 per cent.

“Not too many American buyers were interested in our new products, but there were a few Canadian merchants and one customer had already signed an order for a prototype,” he said, adding that the firm was focused on growing exports to Russia, the US, South America and Europe.

Competition in our industry is fierce, and prices have been transparent for a long time. There is no room to cut prices

Yan Wei, sales manager

One of their main products, a tractor designed to meet North American emission standards that also has hydrostatic transmission technology, was priced at about 60,000 yuan (US$8,288), nearly 50 per cent cheaper than models offered by competitors from Japan and South Korea.

“Competition in our industry is fierce, and prices have been transparent for a long time. There is no room to cut prices,” added Yan.

China’s economy grew by a better-than-expected 5.3 per cent in the first quarter, fuelled by strong export demand and rapid growth in the services sector, despite challenges from the property market and weak domestic consumption.

Canton Fair organisers said they expected momentum from the event to continue, with buyers making appointments to visit factories and inspect production capacity.

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