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Canton Fair foretells grim trade outlook


13:41, October 22, 2012

With the world economy mired in a chronic slowdown since the 2008 financial crisis, China's largest trade fair offers a glimpse into the country's foreign trade situation as well as the economic outlook.

The autumn session of the Canton Fair wrapped up its first week of display on Friday, mainly focusing on machinery and electronics products, hardware products and chemical products.

Statistics from the fair's organizer show that the number of overseas buyers to the fair -- a barometer of China's export situation -- declined considerably, indicating weak global demand amid a sluggish recovery, compounded by a more recent eurozone debt crisis.

The fair registered a total of 93,529 overseas buyers as of Thursday, a decline of 11.4 percent over the same period in the spring session.

At a time when the entire world is tightening its belt, global buyers are more cautious and hesitant in clinching orders.

"We are feeling much pressure, as the number of European and US buyers visiting our booth dropped by more than half during the fair, and those who did visit seemed in a low mood to order," said Chen Dong, deputy manager of Guangdong Machinery Imp & Exp Co Ltd.

Chen said his company had already witnessed a sales decline of 5 percent in the first half of this year.

China's foreign trade in the first three quarters of the year rose a mere 6.2 percent to $2.84 trillion, sharply contrasting the 20.3-percent growth registered during the same period in 2011, according to the General Administration of Customs.

Despite a brisk export surge of 9.9 percent to a monthly record-high export volume in September, and a 2.4 percent recovery in imports after consecutive falls in previous months, the trade outlook in the last quarter as well as that for all of 2012 remains gloomy, and experts say a rebound is unlikely in the foreseeable future.

The grim foreign trade outlook is further dampened by a disheartening overall economic situation.

In the third quarter, China's economy expanded 7.4 percent year on year, slowing from 7.6 percent in the second quarter and 8.1 percent in the first, according to figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Thursday, indicating that the country's economic growth has been on a descending trajectory.

Enterprise representatives interviewed at the fair say the persisting eurozone debt crisis is hindering the recovery of global demand.

Chinese machinery and electronics exports to the European market dropped 23.1 percent during the fair, in great contrast with a 7.5-percent decline to the American market and a slight dip of 0.3 percent to Africa, said Liu Chun, secretary-general of the China Chamber of Commerce for Import & Export of Machinery and Electronics Products.

Machinery and electronics products account for about 60 percent of China's total exports.

"The sagging economy in Europe is mainly to blame for the cooling down of global trade," Liu said.

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