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Canton Fair's New Twist May Spur Imports
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While the famed China Import and Export Fair (previously named Canton Fair) has played a vital role in promoting the country's exports in the past half century, it is expected to do the same for imports this year.

"The move (introducing the import pavilion) reflects the Chinese government's intention to pursue integration with the global economy and its determination to balance trade with other economies," said China's Vice-Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng.

The bi-annual Canton Fair is the largest trade event in China that has been held for 50 years, with 100 sessions. The import pavilions will be up and running from April 15 to 20 during the first phase of the 101st session of the event.

Gao said that as China has become the world's third-largest trader, it is striving to improve the quality of the country's foreign trade and balance its imports and exports.

China is largely known as a major exporter of manufactured products, but at the same time it is also a large importer.

"Therefore, we believe the new import pavilion of the Canton Fair will create a new channel for good-quality foreign products to enter the Chinese market," he said.

The import section will feature 314 companies from 36 countries and regions. Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia and the United States are the top five.

Exhibitors will showcase industrial and consumer products ranging from machinery, equipment, household electronic appliances and hardware to gifts, food and farm products.

So far, 6,000 domestic buyers have agreed to attend, according to the organizers.

More imports expected

The vice-minister said the Chinese government expects international sellers to enlarge their exports to China through the upcoming Canton Fair, adding that the nation encourages imports of energy-saving and environmentally friendly products as well as key and hi-tech equipment.

He said Chinese consumers would also like to see more diverse goods in the market. 

The first session of the Canton Fair started in the spring of 1957. It attracted only 1,223 businesspeople from 19 countries and regions, mainly Southeast Asian countries, and achieved a turnover of US$17.54 million.

The bi-annual fair was not interrupted in the past 50 years, even during the political turmoil in the Cultural Revolution period from 1966 to 1976.

It acted as the main gateway in the country's foreign trade till the reform and opening-up of China in 1978. It once made up 40 percent of China's total exports in the 1970s.

Former minister of foreign trade and economic cooperation Shi Guangsheng, said the event, one of China's first opening activities to the outside world, created miracles at every stage of the country's economic development.

Five decades after its establishment, the fair attracted millions of foreign buyers from 200 countries and regions from nearly every corner of the world with a turnover exceeding US$66 billion in 2006.

(China Daily April 14, 2007)

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