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Foreign buyers dwindle at Canton Fair

By Zheng Yangpeng  (China Daily)

08:15, October 23, 2012

Outside the huge exhibition center staging China's top trade fair, the endless queues are as spectacular as the venue itself.

But this autumn, the spirits of those in the queues at the Guangzhou International Convention and Exhibition Center, who are mainly students seeking jobs as interpreters, have been dampened by the dwindling numbers of foreign buyers at the biannual Canton Fair.

"I traveled more than two hours by train from Shaoguan to Guangzhou. I stood here for a whole day but still didn't get a job," Wang Qi, a 22-year-old college student, said as she paraded a strip of cardboard bearing just one word: "Espanol (Spanish)!"

Efforts have been made to attract more buyers, with the event organizer saying it sent out invitations to 1.3 million overseas enterprises this year, an increase of 17 percent on the spring session and a sign of the growing eagerness to woo foreign buyers as demand from overseas drops amid global economic woes.

Domestic vendors have also been keener to take part, a sign of exporters' increasing desire to tap the overseas market, said fair spokesman Liu Jianjun.

Though organizers have tried to sound an upbeat note about the fair's attractions, including more booths reserved for well-known domestic brands, they admit they are not optimistic about the attendance and turnover figures.

The number of participators and turnover will be announced at the end of the fair on Nov 4.

Inside the venue, the areas between the booths are not as crowded as before.

Qiu Zhen, sales manager of a solar energy street lighting manufacturer from Qingdao, Shandong province, said anti-subsidy investigations launched by the US and EU into China's photovoltaic industry had affected her company's business.

Some vendors have complained about lackluster business.

"Many came here just to look at the price, and their bidding price is unreasonably low," a sales manager for an aluminum alloy producer said.

"There are not as many European and US buyers as before. Now most buyers come from Asia, Latin America and Africa, and are more sensitive to prices," he said.

Zahir Abedin, a Bangladeshi buyer looking for sanitary fittings, said he has been attending the fair for eight years and the latest attendance is poor.

"If you are coming here for the first time you will feel there are many people. But if you had been here a few years ago, you will feel the opposite," he said.

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