The transformation of the Canton Fair — from a pure export platform to an import-export event, from a single-function arena to a multi-functional exhibition space — has exerted a strong impact on Chinese foreign trade over the six decades since the fair opened.
In early statehood, China was in need of a road to international trade. The Canton Fair was born here, in the commercial hub of Guangzhou, just down the road from Hong Kong and Macao, in 1957, symbolizing China’s official opening to foreign commerce. With Chinese accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, the nation caught up with the new growth cycle of the world’s economy, and trade volume hiked rapidly. The 101st Canton Fair changed its name to the China Import and Export Commodity Trade Fair and invited overseas companies to exhibit for the first time, turning the unilateral trade platform into a multilateral one.
With the increasingly diversified needs of buyers and sellers, the fair has been changing its position as a one-way trading hub by taking measures to modernize. That includes such ideas as making acquaintances with clients, negotiation illustration, exchange of trade enterprises, information publishing and commodity introduction.
Approximately 200,000 overseas buyers attend each biennial fair, so it’s important to entice clients. The 95th fair in 2004 set up a famous domestic brands booth with a 17 percent turnover, and the ratio increased to above 33 percent during the fair this past spring. The 109th fair initiated a Canton Fair Product Design and Trade Promotion Centre (PDC) and other meeting places and forums to help enterprises expand their horizons. Every fair presents newly developed, environment-friendly commodities. A Canton Fair Design Awards (CF Awards) was launched to motivate the development of green industry and green goods.
(By Zoe Xu, Louis Berney)