Overseas investors cautious at Canton Fair

Foreign investors are returning, but whether orders will follow remains to be seen.

Photo from CFP

Photo from CFP

By ZHANG Xilong


The first phase of the 134th Canton Fair, also known as the China Import and Export Fair, ended October 19, with over 100,000 attendees passing through the venue and regions, but investors remain cautious in placing orders.

The composition of foreign participants has changed, with nearly 70,000 buyers from Belt and Road countries, a 65.2 percent increase compared to the previous fair.

Many exhibitors reported a significant increase in the number of investors, primarily from Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and South America, with relatively fewer European and American attendees.

Factors contributing to the return of foreign buyers include the resumption of international flights and the new Pazhou Port near the Canton Fair venue, serving as a convenient transit hub.

Foreign investors are returning, but whether orders will follow remains to be seen, as many exhibitors noted that customers are more cautious and price-sensitive.

One Taiwanese buyer, who has attended the fair eight times, said: “The industry isn’t doing well this year, and consumer spending is limited. People are still working through their inventory. Business is actually worse this year than during the pandemic, with orders down by over 50 percent.”

Buyers are more cost-sensitive, resulting in a preference for mid to low-end products.

Import methods have also shifted, with buyers from South Asia and Africa seeking to purchase components to reduce costs, as component import duties are generally lower than those for complete products.

The current Fair is the largest ever. The new energy zone almost three times bigger than last year’s attracted a crowd. household appliances, consumer electronics, machinery and equipment, and new energy, saw an increase of approximately 3,000 booths.

Representatives of electric passenger vehicles, lithium batteries, and solar cell booths noted that the number of visitors had returned to, or even exceeded pre-pandemic levels.

Data shows that in the first three quarters of the year, China’s combined exports of electric passenger vehicles, lithium batteries, and solar cells amounted to 800 billion yuan, a 41.7 percent year-on-year increase, accounting for 4.5 percent of China’s exports.

Although there is growth in areas like Central Asia, it is still in the early stages. A Kazakhstani buyer expressed interest in purchasing 30 large buses but still preferred diesel vehicles due to the harsh winter climate with temperatures below -20 degrees Celsius, affecting the range of electric vehicles.

“These regions lack supporting infrastructure, including charging facilities, and diesel vehicles are more popular. Another reason is that the range of diesel vehicles far exceeds that of electric vehicles,” notes a Zhongtong Bus host.

Shenzhen Shangyi’s Executive Vice President Feng Yunbo said that most visitors were merely seeking information as new energy is a relatively novel industry for them. They were exploring opportunities rather than placing orders.