Canton Fair Trade Expo Remains Important Source for Finding U.S. Buyers

tendata blogTrade Trends News

ten data blog11-06-2024

As a bustling center of global trade and commerce, the fair attracts thousands of exhibitors from China and beyond to showcase their products to global buyers. It is not just a showcase, but also an opportunity for companies to enter unknown markets, close key deals and forge important partnerships across industries.

Even against the backdrop of U.S.-China trade tensions, the fair remains steadfast in its mission to connect U.S. buyers to China's extensive supply chain network, forging lasting connections despite the geopolitical landscape.

The Canton Fair is held every two years and was originally held in April 1957 in Guangzhou. The fair initially focused on traditional commodities such as textiles, ceramics and handicrafts.At the 1978 Canton Fair, 17,547 buyers from 98 countries and regions showed up, more than 80 percent of whom were Asian, mainly from Hong Kong and Macau.

By 2018, when the number of overseas buyers attending exceeded 200,000, the proportion of Asian buyers fell to 55 percent, while that of U.S. and European buyers rose to 33 percent, according to the China Foreign Trade Center.

The ensuing trade war has highly politicized the world's most important trade relationship. in 2018, then-US President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese imports, accusing China of dumping cheap goods into the US market while purchasing too few.

As tensions over the bilateral trade deficit escalated, export orders to the United States at the Canton Fair in October 2018 fell by more than 30 percent from the previous year, while the number of U.S. attendees dropped by 4 percent.

The fair was dealt another blow by the new Crown Pneumonia outbreak, forcing the fair to be held online instead from 2020 to 2022. Meanwhile, U.S.-China relations fell to their lowest point in decades, with Trump's successor Joe Biden's insistence on tariff policies further exacerbating various geopolitical frictions.

When the Expo returned in 2023, more than 12,000 Americans attended the show. Organizers report that the latest edition, which ended on May 5, attracted 8,500 U.S. buyers - the largest group of buyers from any single country.

Decades ago, more than 40 percent of China's total exports came from the Canton Fair, compared to less than 3 percent today.

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u.s. buyers,global buyers,overseas buyers

Yet despite the ongoing trade war between the US and China, which has expanded to include export controls and investment restrictions, some trade experts say the fair remains one of the largest “Track 2 commerce” platforms for the two countries to cooperate amid mutual suspicion and geopolitical rivalry. “Track II commerce” refers to informal interactions.

They argue that trade fairs have become a regular event in the globalized economy and have gained new importance as economic relations are scrutinized for potential security risks.

This is an election year, and the US political scene is highly competitive, with Democrats and Republicans competing to outmaneuver each other in their hard-line stance on China.

Trump, who is vying for a second term with Biden, has vowed to impose a 60 percent tariff on all Chinese imports.

Even so, China's consul general in New York, Huang Ping, assured representatives of U.S. companies at a presentation in Manhattan that it was still “a good time to do business” with China.

The U.S. remains China's largest single-country trading partner - although last year Mexico surpassed China as the largest U.S. exporter.

In 2023, U.S. imports from China will be about 20 percent lower than in 2022.

In April, China's imports from the U.S. rose 9 percent year-on-year, while exports fell nearly 3 percent, according to the latest data from China Customs.

While the U.S. has expressed interest in cooperating with China in non-strategic areas, lingering tariffs have overshadowed business prospects.

Despite these obstacles, participants at the Canton Fair said they remained undiscouraged and hopeful that their economic ties with China will weather the storm and be revitalized.

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