China's leading trade fair, known as Canton Fair, ended Thursday with export orders down almost 17 percent, a sign of troubles ahead for China's exporters amid the financial crisis, organizers said.
The export agreements for more than 20,000 Chinese companies reached $26 billion at the 105th China Import and Export from April 15 to May 7, down 16.9 percent compared to the previous fair last October, said the fair's organizers.
"Statistics show that China's export will continue to decline in the next two quarters," said Wen Zhongliang, director of the Business Office of the fair and deputy director of the Department of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Commerce.
"It may get better in the fourth quarter," Wen said.
The Canton Fair, with a history of 52 years, opened with the world's close attention amid the global downturn as a barometer for China's import and export situation.
Fair sales showed that China's economic situation is still grim despite of the "positive signs", Wen said.
"The financial crisis had hit the real economy and its impact on consumer demands still continues," Wen said.
Mechanical and electrical product deals, which account for half of China's exports in money terms, reached $11.3 billion, down 19.5 percent. Textile deals were worth $1.6 billion, down 15 percent, and the daily commodities down 2.4 percent.
The "positive changes" in textile industry in March was a temporary and partial change, which should not lead to over-optimism for the industry, said Wang Yu, vice president of China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Textiles.
"The orders are still decreasing, which is a great challenge for China's 40,000 textile companies," Wang told Xinhua.
More than 165,000 oversea buyers attended the fair, down 5.1 percent from the previous fair.
"Many old customers decreased or even canceled their purchasing plan this time," said Du Yanhua, manager of Shanghai Flying Horse Import and Export Group Ltd.
Many Chinese companies said their export agreements are becoming "shorter" and "smaller". "My company's export to a Spanish company was reduced to 200,000 from $1 million and the delivery time was shortened to two months from three months," said a sales manger of Aux Group Company Ltd.
Although Europe and America are still the major markets for China, the deals are down 28 percent and eight percent respectively compared to the previous fair while agreements increased in new markets, said Mu Xinhai, fair spokesman.
China's exports to Argentina, India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations rose 10, six and seven percent respectively, Mu said.
"Chinese companies are trying to explore new markets while old ones are shrinking," Mu said.
More companies also turned to the domestic market. Two domestic trade sub-fairs were held during the Canton Fair. Deals volume exceeded 460 million yuan (about $67.6 million) at one of the fairs, Mu said.
Confidence could be seen at the fair amid the downturn. Some companies said the most severe time had ended.
"Our business has become more stable compared to last November and December, which gives us more confidence to counter the crisis," said Cao Xiaojian, general manager of Jiangsu Sainty International Group Cooperation Ltd..
Companies which survived the crisis had improved themselves and reinforced their competitiveness, Wen Zhongliang said.
"With the recovery of the world's economy, Chinese companies have the confidence to be more competitive in the international market," Wen said.