Canton Fair Waiting for Polish Companies
March 3, 2014
While in Poland, Liu Jianjun, Deputy Director General of China Foreign Trade Centre (Group), the organizer of the China Import and Export Fair, the largest trade fair in China and one of the largest in the world, talked to Andrzej Ratajczyk.
What is the purpose of your visit to Poland?
The mission of the delegation is to promote the China Import and Export Fair, also called the Canton Fair, a leading trade show internationally and a renowned platform for global business people to explore the Chinese market in both imports and exports. The next fair—the 115th Canton Fair—will start in April. We want Polish companies and institutions to take an interest in this event, organized by the China Foreign Trade Centre, and encourage them to take part in it.
What makes the Canton Fair stand out among many similar events in China and worldwide?
First, it is the oldest trade fair in China, which is why we have the most experience in organizing these types of events. The first China Import and Export Fair was held in the spring of 1957. It is co-hosted biannually by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and the People’s Government of Guangdong Province in Guangzhou, every spring and autumn. Second, it is the largest trade fair in China and one of the largest in the world. The exhibition space of one session reaches 1.16 million square meters and the number of exhibitors is around 24,000. The fair ranks number one in the world in terms of the scale of a single exhibition, and it is a comprehensive international trading event with the longest history, the largest scale, the most complete variety of exhibits, the biggest buyer attendance, the broadest distribution of buyers’ origin, and the greatest business turnover in China. The 114th Canton Fair attracted more than 189,000 buyers from 212 countries and regions. These figures reflect the huge commercial value of the Canton Fair and its importance in contributing to global trade. The Canton Fair is a showcase and a window on the world for China—especially since the start of economic reforms when China’s economy opened wide to the world.
China is the world’s largest exporter. Does the fair exclusively serve to boost Chinese exports?
In the beginning this was an export trade fair only, but after 2007 we decided to expand the event and provide some of the exhibition space to importers. The most recent fairs were attended by about 6,000 importers from 100 countries. This is quite an impressive figure. The Canton Fair is a multi-disciplinary fair. Approximately 150,000 different kinds of products are exhibited there.
China’s economy has resisted the negative effects of the global financial crisis. Did the deterioration in the global economy affect the Canton Fair in terms of its popularity with exhibitors?
The crisis of 2008 also had an impact on China, though not as strong as in the case of the U.S. or Western European countries. But, due to the uncertain situation around the world, Chinese exports to some countries decreased. Imports to China decreased as well. Fortunately, measures taken by the Chinese government have produced results and the decline in exports was quickly halted. Despite this, we saw a certain drop in interest in the fair, and the number of transactions carried out during the event has also decreased. Besides, competition has appeared in the form of specialized trade fairs targeted at specific business sectors.
Just how popular is the fair among Polish businesses? Since when have Polish companies been participating in this event?
Polish companies began to come to the fair in the early 1990s. And the number is growing every year. Each of the last two fairs—in the spring and autumn—was attended by between 1,000 and 1,500 Polish companies. This means that the level of interest is already considerable. It is worth mentioning that, for many Polish companies, participation in the fair is only a prelude to establishing cooperation with a Chinese partner. After contacts are established, Polish businesspeople visit factories in China, and Chinese producers go to Poland to negotiate with their Polish partners.
What are the prospects for boosting Polish-Chinese business ties? What are the most promising sectors in terms of bilateral business relations?
Poland’s political and trade relations with China have always been very good. But economic cooperation began to develop in earnest after the start of reforms in both China and Poland in the 1990s. This cooperation has become even more intense after the recent visits of Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to Poland and of Polish President Bronisław Komorowski to China. China is interested in Central and Eastern Europe as a region. And Poland is the most important country in this region, the country with which Chinese companies are the most keen to do business.
When it comes to the development of trade, I can see big potential in Polish food. Poland is respected in China as a producer of meat and dairy products, and we want to import more of these products. China is increasingly opening up to imported goods. And because of the size of the country and the rising standard of living, China is a very attractive market. That’s why we would like to tell Polish companies, especially those in the consumer goods sector, that the Canton Fair is a very good platform to enter the huge Chinese market.