The 127th China Import and Export Fair, known as the Canton Fair, went online for the first time due to the pandemic. Officially kicking off on Monday, the fair has seen foreign businesses participating fully, including US companies that have faced mounting pressure among the intensifying China-US conflict.
"We've been going to the Canton Fair for the past ten years!" Nathan Resnick, CEO of US business-to-business sourcing company Sourcify, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Resnick said that he respects the decision to move the fair online amid the pandemic, so that people can participate without risking their health.
Since 1957, the Canton Fair has developed into the largest international trading event, with the broadest range of participants and buyers from all over the world. As an important channel linking China and the world, it also contributed a lot to the stabilization of global industrial and supply chains.
"As the pandemic has nearly shattered normal business activity across the world, the fair offers an effective approach to global businesses," Ou Yangkai, business director of Sichuan Machinery Import & Export Co (SCTOOLS), told the Global Times.
As a major industrial instrument exporter, SCTOOLS supplies more than 380 foreign customers, including most of the leading industrial supply companies and hardware stores in Europe and North America.
Ou said that the company concluded a deal with a German company just ahead of the fair.
"The German company ordered our new self-developed product, worth more than $100,000," Ou said. "Though it was not a big contract, it proved that the fair offers a quick and effective path to sell new products amid the pandemic."
During an online promotion session on June 9, John Clarke, a representative of US participants and an old friend of the fair, said that "as a representative of Iowa, we organize trade missions to China and do individual business-to-business matchmaking meetings and attend Canton Fairs."
The Canton Fair has more than 12 million square feet (1.11 million square meters) of exhibit space, with 25,000 exhibitors and 200,000 visiting companies, so it really is an opportunity for one-stop shopping, Clarke said.
Ou said the company has arranged more than 20 online client meetings, including those from the US and Australia. Overseas customers have high expectations for the fair amid the gloomy trade environment.
Speaking of the deepening conflicts of the US and Australia toward China, Ou said that customers are essentially practical, acting based on market rules. The intensely political environment will push Chinese companies to grow faster and develop more advanced products, Ou said.
US businesses are always looking for new opportunities, but trade tensions have definitely pushed them to look outside of China more often than in previous years, said Resnick.
"It's true, our American customers have been seeking alternatives in other countries, such as Vietnam. However, it's not an easy campaign as most of the Southeast Asian countries don't have sound industrial systems. While for Chinese firms, it is an opportunities to enhance their core competitiveness," Ou said.
During the 10-days mega online event, the Canton Fair is offering 50 exhibition sections in 16 categories -- for example, hardware and tools with 2,290 exhibitors.
The fair also set up a cross-border e-commerce section, and launched simultaneous activities with domestic business-to-business platforms to allow more trade firms from across the world to join the platform, such as made-in-China.com and DHgate.com.