SOURCE / ECONOMY
China opens major trade fair online with record showing but mixed views on format
Firms mixed over the online format due to COVID-19
Published: Apr 15, 2021 08:18 PM
The China Import and Export Fair Complex in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province on Sunday, where the Canton Fair takes place twice every year. This year, much of the fair is going virtual. Photo: VCG

The China Import and Export Fair Complex in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province, where the Canton Fair takes place twice every year. This year, much of the fair is going virtual. Photo: VCG



China on Thursday opened one of the world's largest trade fairs, the Canton Fair, attracting a record number of products from around the world in another fresh sign of the accelerating economic recovery in China and beyond from the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, due to the lingering threat posed by the coronavirus, the 129th Canton Fair, usually takes place in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province, is held mostly online, encouraging more overseas businesses to attend but frustrating some vendors that want to show their products in person.

Nearly 26,000 domestic and overseas exhibitors are taking part in the fair, and a record 2.7 million products are displayed on the event's website, an increase of 230,000 from the October session last year. Some products are making their global debuts at the fair.

A total of 340 foreign companies from 28 countries and regions are participating as exhibitors, including industry benchmarks and leading international companies from Canada, Brazil, South Korea and other countries. 

Li Yansong, a manager with Guangzhou Magi-Wap Culture Articles Co, told the Global Times on Thursday that he is confident about this online fair and he expects sales will likely reach 3 million ($459,854) to 4.5 million yuan this year due to the sophisticated trading platform.

"We uploaded detailed information about our products on the online fair's platform and applied virtual reality techniques to let our clients know our products better," said Li. The company sells color paints.

Li noted that he made deals with seven or eight overseas clients during the trial run, which started on April 6, and each deal was valued at about 100,000 yuan. 

"There is no other fair in the world like the Canton Fair, which brings together so many suppliers, so that participants can establish their own business networks. Because of this, it is the exhibition I have attended the most frequently," Fabien Dessaint from France, who has been a buyer at the Canton Fair since 2007, was quoted by media as saying.

A 10-year veteran buyer from Peru told the Global Times on Thursday that the online experience improved a lot from last year.

"The online fair is important because it saves Peruvian buyers a lot of time. It usually takes a month to travel from Peru to China and go back after the fair, which means they're unable to take care of their local businesses," said the Peruvian buyer.

"The website of the Canton Fair uses content delivery technology to enable distribution nodes in more than 50 countries and regions around the world to improve the efficiency of overseas visits," Chen Xiansheng, vice general manager of the Information Department of the China Foreign Trade Center Group, the organizer of the Canton Fair, said on Thursday.

"At the same time, the platform will dynamically adjust the input of network resources in line with the pressure of access to ensure smooth website access," Chen said. 

But some exhibitors are hoping for the fair to resume its in-person format as soon as possible.

Fu Shaohua, sales manager of Guangzhou Kingsons Bags Technology Co - a bag and suitcase exhibitor - is one of them. Fu said that online exhibits have limits, and this has affected the sales of her company.

"Sales are not as high as we expected. We implemented various promotion methods including live streaming," Fu told the Global Times on Thursday. 

A staffer of the Canton Fair told the Global Times on Thursday that there is no plan at present to hold a physical fair, as in the past. It depends on the situation of the pandemic, he added.

"The opening of international travel requires a vaccination rate of 70 to 80 percent for residents of each country, and countries are currently competing for vaccinations," the Xinhua News Agency reported on Thursday citing Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Continuing to hold the Canton Fair online can effectively avoid the risk of importing the coronavirus, consolidate the hard-won achievements in epidemic prevention and control, and maintain the sound momentum of stable economic development in China, Xu Bing, spokesperson of the Canton Fair and deputy director-general of the China Foreign Trade Center, told a press conference on Wednesday.

In order to reduce the burden of enterprises participating in the fair, the Canton Fair will be free for enterprises and cross-border e-commerce platforms. In fact, enterprises participating in the fair can receive tax breaks.

The online fair will help overseas exhibitors export more to China, and help Chinese enterprises export more, Xu said, adding that it will also help Chinese exporters who are willing to explore the domestic market connect with domestic buyers.


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