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High hopes as trade fair opens in Shanghai

CHINA'S largest regional trade fair opened in Shanghai yesterday against a backdrop of falling exports due to the global financial crisis.

The 19th East China Fair, which runs until Thursday at the Shanghai New International Expo Center, features 5,312 exhibition stands.

On show are items from bowls to shoes and garments to electronic gadgets produced in areas including Shanghai and Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Anhui, Fujian, Jiangxi and Shandong provinces.

Officials with Shanghai Commerce Commission said the fair was taking place at a significant moment with the global economic meltdown leading to slowing demand worldwide. The fair, an export barometer, is expected to bring much-needed encouragement to manufacturers who sell abroad.

"The fair is instrumental in adjusting the export structure to feature more branded products and target more emerging markets as export destinations to cushion the impact of decreasing exports," said Wang Qingjiang, director of Trade Development Department of Shanghai Commerce Commission.

For instance, emerging markets in the Middle East boasted a trade growth of more than 30 percent with China in contrast with shrinking demand in developed countries last year, Wang said.

Nearly 800 branded products are on show as a result of the organizer's efforts to promote high-value-added products.

"There is not as much difference in design, material or quality, the value lies in your own brand and the culture behind it," said Eunice Ying, an official with Shanghai Silk (Group) Brand Development Co.


The company started to produce items under their own "Lily" brand about seven years ago. The garment maker opened several speciality stores in the Middle East and plans to expand into Europe soon.

Although the general outlook seems gloomy and full of uncertainty, exhibitors agreed that not all overseas companies were suffering narrower profit margins and they hoped to find new business opportunities at the fair.

International buyers who attended said they valued design in addition to cost, which was what domestic manufacturers considered important to buyers.

"Styles seem not as rich and varied as previous years, but I am happy to see more self-designed products, which are exquisite and catering to the global fashion trend," said Siu Zhiyuan, director general of Marlimy, a French garment trading company.

As well as 3,400 domestic companies, some 100 exhibitors from nine other countries including the United States, Britain and Japan were showcasing their products to Chinese manufacturers and consumers. The nation is encouraging imports to balance the surging trade surplus.

China's exports fell 17.5 percent year on year to US$90.45 billion in January. It was the third consecutive drop following a 2.8 percent decline in December and a 2.2 percent decrease in November.

China's trade surplus expanded 102 percent to US$39.1 billion in Janaury.


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