Largest-ever Canton Fair opens, as global traders express confidence in China
Published: Apr 14, 2023 09:06 PM Updated: Apr 14, 2023 11:51 PM
The 133rd China Import and Export Fair Photo:VCG

The 133rd China Import and Export Fair Photo:VCG

The 133rd China Import and Export Fair, commonly known as the Canton Fair, officially kicked off with an opening ceremony on Friday in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong, and is expected to be the largest ever after fully resuming its offline exhibitions for the first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Canton Fair, China's time-honored biannual trade fair which started in 1957, has become a reliable barometer of China's foreign trade. With the exhibition scheduled to officially open on Saturday, traders said that they were excited to participate in the event on-site and expressed confidence in China's foreign trade, given the strong competitive supply chain and products backed by advanced technologies.

The historic scale and excitement among traders highlighted the resilience of China's foreign trade despite external challenges, and suggested stable exports and imports going forward that will greatly contribute to the world economy, which is facing growing downward pressure, participants and traders said.

Speaking at the opening ceremony on Friday via video link, Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng said that this session of the Canton Fair is of great significance to deepening trade between China and other countries and promoting the recovery and development of global economy and trade.

"We will take the initiative to expand imports, and continue to use China's new economic development to provide new opportunities for the world economy," He said.



Great excitement

The State Council, the cabinet, on Friday held an executive meeting on optimizing policy measures to stabilize employment and vowed to take pragmatic and effective measures to this end in the sectors of manufacturing and foreign trade.

"When it comes to foreign trade, the first thing that comes to mind is the Canton Fair. The foreign trade industry has been preparing for this session for a long time. I'm sure the exhibition will be successful," Sun Song, head of B2B business of Shenzhen Proscenic Technology Co, a home appliance supplier, told the Global Times on Friday.

The fully on-site Canton Fair has been highly anticipated by foreign trade industry practitioners and everyone is expecting good results, Zhu Qiucheng, CEO of Ningbo New Oriental Electric Industrial Development, told the Global Times.

The 2023 spring session Canton Fair, scheduled from Saturday to May 5, is the first fully on-site event after three years of the epidemic. Both the exhibition area - 1.5 million square meters - and the number of exhibitors - nearly 35,000 exhibitors on-site - reached record highs, Xu Bing, spokesperson of the Canton Fair, said on Thursday during a press briefing.

Companies from 226 countries and regions have confirmed their plans to attend the Canton Fair on-site or online, and 47 global business organizations will attend as groups. Fortune 500 and Fortune 250 retailers confirmed that they will send buyers to the trade event. A total of 53 leading multinational companies, including Walmart, Auchan, Carrefour and Metro, will also be taking part, according to the organizer.

A trader from Abu Dhabi, who gave his name as Thomas, told the Global Times that he rushed to visit a partner's factory in Guangzhou right after he got off the airplane. "We already reached some purchase intentions even before the fair officially starts," said Thomas, who helps Chinese companies export products to the United Arab Emirates.

"The Canton Fair will provide business opportunities for exhibitors and businessmen across the world," Wang Shouwen, vice minister of commerce, said on Friday during the opening ceremony.

The scale of exhibitions for imports at the Canton Fair has also expanded this year, covering 30,000 square meters, up 50 percent from 2019.

Foreign buyers apply for certificates at the 133rd China Import and Export Fair which kicks off on April 14, 2023 in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province. Photo: IC

Foreign buyers apply for certificates at the 133rd China Import and Export Fair which kicks off on April 14, 2023 in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province. Photo: IC

A large number of participants are from countries such as the US, Japan, South Korea, Germany, France, the UK and India. There will be 508 companies from 40 countries and regions participating in the import exhibition, 73 percent of which are from countries and regions involved in the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Companies from RCEP member countries will jointly set up an RCEP National Food Pavilion at the Canton Fair, aiming to sell food products to China's huge market, Wang Jiazheng, president of the Canton Chamber of Commerce in New Zealand and Executive chairman of Guangdong Business Alliance of RCEP member countries, told the Global Times on Thursday.

"More than 10 member companies from New Zealand will come to the Canton Fair in person. Imports from China, such as hardware, will do a lot to help reduce their costs back in New Zealand," Wang said.

Many businesses from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region are also attending the fair to seize the trade opportunities on offer. Michael Li Chi-fung, deputy general manager of Hong Kong-based Yuen Tai, told the Global Times that his grandfather attended the very first session and the company has never missed any of the fair's sessions since. "I hope I can attend the 200th session of the Canton Fair," he said.

Confidence in trade

As well as being excited, exhibitors are also confident in China's resilient supply chain and massive trade market potential.

China's export volume grew by a surprising 23.4 percent year-on-year in yuan-denominated terms in March, beating market expectations, according to statistics from Chinese customs authorities on Thursday. The country's March imports increased 15.3 percent from February.

The growth in the second half of the year will be much better than in the first half, said Zhu, pointing to solid fundamentals and disputing the foreign hype that China's trade sector is under pressure.

"It is one-sided for some in the West to gauge China's foreign trade through the transfer of industrial chains and empty containers at ports, which cannot represent the entirety of China's foreign trade," Zhu noted.

Wang Jiazheng also said that "China is not only a big consumer market, but also has the largest concentration of suppliers in the world. Even during the pandemic, Chinese industrial chains and supply chains continued to operate smoothly."

China's resilience and accelerating economic recovery has also become a bright spot in the global economy, which faces growing slowing pressure. The IMF on Tuesday projected that China's economy will grow by 5.2 percent in 2023. On Wednesday, World Bank Group President David Malpass said that due to an improved outlook for China's recovery, the multilateral lender has revised China's growth prospects for 2023 from 4.3 percent to 5.1 percent, which lifted its global growth forecast from 1.7 percent to 2 percent.