China's largest trade fair opened its 117th session in the southern province of Guangdong on Wednesday, with delegates expressing concern about tough export prospects.
The biannual China Import and Export Fair, also known as the Canton Fair, is seen as a barometer of China's exports. With demand slowdown and the appreciation of the renminbi, worries prevail that this year's foreign trade prospects might be dim.
At the fair's exhibition center in Guangzhou, Guangdong's capital, fewer delegates showed up than in previous years. Many delegates said they face sluggish sales in foreign markets.
Gao Yuanjia, general manager of Jiangsu Chunlan Air-conditioner Import and Export Co., said he expects transactions to slacken as a result of sluggish foreign economies, particularly Europe, the company's traditional market.
An executive with China's leading home appliance maker, Midea Group, told Xinhua that weak demand in Europe coupled with the falling euro means tough trade prospects for the company.
"Some of our clients demanded a discount of 15 percent," he said.
On Wednesday, China announced 7-percent GDP growth in the first quarter. Exports fell 15 percent year-on-year in March.
Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Zhong Shan on Wednesday warned that China's trade outlook might be worse than expected.
"Foreign trade this year may be complicated and tough," Zhong said at the fair.
Xu Yufeng, Asia and Middle East vice marketing director of Trina Solar, said the falling euro, trade barriers in emerging countries and recent regional conflicts have greatly affected China's exports.
Despite the difficult conditions, Chinese exporters have been trying to increase sales by improving quality and exploring new markets.
At the fair center on Wednesday, exhibitors displayed new products to boost business.
Huang Dawen, deputy general manager of China's leading TV maker Changhong Group, said his company is trying to set up factories overseas to offset disadvantages caused by floating exchange rates.
"We will make more efforts in product improvement and overseas market development to enhance our competitiveness," Huang said.
Canton Fair's spokesman Liu Jianjun said companies with strong brands and advanced technology are taking a bigger share, while small enterprises that lack core technologies are losing customers.
Zhong Shan said the Ministry of Commerce will introduce policies to help foreign trade and outbound investment.