Canton Fair combines online and offline events for the first time

Canton Fair combines online and offline events for the first time

The 130th session of the China Import and Export Fair (Canton Fair) featuring both online and offline activities for the first time, has opened in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province. The biannual fair was held only virtually twice in 2020 and once earlier this year due to the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic. The event aims to draw more global buyers from online platforms to assist export-oriented companies gain new orders, said Chu Shijia, Secretary General of the fair’s Organizing Committee. “Going online doesn’t mean a simple change of format for the Canton Fair, but a new structural design including digital technologies,” said Chu, who is also Director General of the Guangzhou-based China Foreign Trade Center. Since Covid-19 has caused a severe impact on global supply chains and traditional economic and trade activities, the new economic form of “digital trade” represented by cross-border e-commerce has quickly become a new way to boost trade growth, he said. China’s cross-border e-commerce imports and exports reached CNY1.69 trillion in 2020, up 31.1% year-on-year. Over the past five years, the country’s cross-border e-commerce volume has grown by nearly 10 times, data from the Ministry of Commerce (NOFCOM) showed.

President Xi Jinping renewed China’s pledge to work with other nations in upholding true multilateralism and promoting the development of a high-level open world economy as he congratulated the opening of the 130th session of the China Import and Export Fair. In a message sent to the Fair, Xi encouraged it to develop itself into a key platform for the nation to promote across-the-board opening-up and high quality growth of international trade, and to connect domestic and international markets. In a keynote speech at the opening of the Fair, Premier Li Keqiang called on nations to uphold openness and cooperation to jointly promote economic recovery. It is important to uphold free trade, enhance policy coordination, bolster the production and supply of bulk commodities and key components, ensure smooth international logistics and safeguard the smooth and steady functioning of global industry and supply chains, Li said.

The accelerated restructuring of the global value chain and the fast growing digital economy will transform the 65-year-old China Import and Export Fair from a goods trade-themed grand event into a comprehensive business platform enriched by trade in services and technologies, experts said. “In the past, China mainly traded in goods. But the nation today has already become a major player in intellectual property rights, with a large number of patent applications,” said Sang Baichuan, Dean of the Institute of International Business at the Beijing-based University of International Business and Economics. Trade in services refers to the sale and delivery of intangible services, such as transportation, tourism, telecommunications, research and development, human resources, education, healthcare, construction, advertising, computing and accounting. Advanced services and technologies, all will be displayed in both online channels and offline booths during the fair.

Supported by a sound business environment, the tangible growth of pilot free trade zones (FTZs) and industrial upgrading, as well as a massive domestic market, the ranking of China’s trade in services rose to the 14th position worldwide this year, up from 20th in 2020, according to the annual “Report on Development Index of Trade in Services in the World (2021)”, released by the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, a Beijing-based government think tank. China will soon release a plan to grow trade in services during its 14th Five Year Plan period (2021-25). China’s trade in services surged 9.4% on a yearly basis to CNY3.27 trillion in the first eight months, said the Ministry of Commerce.

Measures to resume offline exhibitions will stimulate the enthusiasm of domestic consumers and encourage Chinese manufacturers to further solidify growth points in the home market, said Vice Minister of Commerce Ren Hongbin. Apart from the 60,000 online exhibition booths for 26,000 domestic and international exhibitors, the Fair has an offline exhibition area of 400,000 square meters and covers 16 categories of products. With China increasingly bringing the Covid-19 pandemic under control, the recovery of its convention and exhibition business segment has helped the Canton Fair resume offline exhibitions this month, said Bai Ming, Deputy Director of the International Market Research Department at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation in Beijing. “Eager to restore their earnings, companies from all sectors are hoping to communicate with their clients face-to-face and gain more market share via trade fairs and other commercial platforms,” Bai said. He added that the integration of online and offline exhibitions at the Canton Fair is also in line with the trend of the diversification of international trade methods and digital transformation in many sectors. “In the past, offline exhibitions focused on large-volume purchases in shipping containers. It was difficult to take into account the individual needs of smaller buyers. Online exhibitions nowadays can break through the limitations of time and space, meeting many businesses needs for small-volume, multi-variety and personalized products at a lower cost,” Bai added.