BEIJING, Oct. 16 (Xinhuanet) -- The opening day of the China Import and Export Fair on Monday, which is considered a barometer of the country's foreign trade situation, saw fewer people attending due to the lackluster trade situation.
Forecasts for the number of participants, including buyers and exhibitors, as well as turnover, are "not optimistic", said Liu Jianjun, a spokesman for the event, which is also known as the Canton Fair.
Liu attributed the situation to flagging external demand, rising trade frictions, the rising value of the yuan, and seasonal factors.
"Importers from emerging economies, such as Latin America and Africa, tend to purchase extensively in the spring session. And the strained Sino-Japanese relationship also took a toll on bilateral trade," Liu said.
The event is held twice a year, in the spring and in autumn. This autumn's fair is being held from Oct 15 to Nov 4.
About 54 percent of the exporters who applied to participate in the event have been allowed to take part, which according to Liu, reflects the exporters' increasing willingness to tap overseas markets.
"The low approval rate shows that amid the tremendous uncertainties of the economic environment, Chinese companies are still eager to explore the international market," Liu said.
Some 24,288 exporters are expected to participate in the fair, 164 more than at the last session. Up to 552 importers from 44 countries and regions will take part in the fair, 32 more than at the last session.
Most of the importers come from South Korea, India, Malaysia and Turkey, according to the event's organizers.
Number of participants and turnover figures will be released at the end of the fair.
Another sign of the grim foreign trade situation is the oversupply of interpreters at the fair.
Outside the Guangzhou International Convention and Exhibition Center, casual employment centers were full of college students seeking interpreter jobs, an indication of fewer foreign buyers.
Taxi drivers also said that business was not as good as in previous years.
"Before, the road outside the venue was always congested at noon, but now it's empty," Chen Zhiqiang, a taxi driver waiting outside the venue, said.
Also, inside the fair's venue, the hallway between the booths was not as crowded as it used to be.
Liang Huan, a sales assistant for an energy-saving lamp company from Hangzhou, said that this year her company's business is not as strong as last year.
"Our major markets are in Europe. The European debt woes are having a direct impact on our orders," she said.
Qiu Zhen, a sales manager for a Qingdao factory that makes solar-energy street lamps, said that the anti-subsidy investigation against China's solar industry has hurt her company's business.
"Now we are diverting our efforts to another kind of lamp, which is not related to the solar industry," she said.
Though both industry experts and trade officials are not optimistic about the current trade condition - which Liu said would remain "grim" for the fourth quarter and even next year - trade figures for September, released on Saturday, have provided some relief.
China's exports increased 9.9 percent in September from a year earlier, much higher than the 2.7-percent growth in August. Imports resumed growth after a decline in August.
The growth in September reflected the run-up to the Christmas and New Year holidays, Zhang Yansheng, an international trade specialist said. But as the eurozone debt crisis continues to fester in Europe - China's largest trade partner - and recovery remains slow in the United States, the "fundamentals that affect China's trade situation are unlikely to improve any time soon".
To boost foreign trade, the State Council in September issued a batch of measures, including speeding up export tax rebates, reducing administrative costs for companies, lowering financing costs for small and micro-sized companies and increasing credit to exporters.
(Source: China Daily)