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China Focus: Beam of optimism as Canton Fair opens

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GUANGZHOU, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- China's largest trade fair opened its 116th session in the southern province of Guangdong on Wednesday, with delegates expressing confidence despite 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. In a sign of slow recovery in the global economy, the fair's spokesman Liu Jianjun said the number of buyers is likely to remain level with the previous session.

The 115th Canton Fair held earlier this year reported rare slumps in both the number of buyers and turnover. The good news is that over 90 percent of the exhibitors attending the previous fair reapplied, suggesting undaunted confidence among Chinese exporters, Liu said.

The fair has attracted 24,751 exhibitors from China and abroad, up 170 from the previous session. A total of 60,222 booths will be opened, up 514 from the previous session.

The fair comes as China struggles to fuel its foreign trade, growth of which in the first three quarters slowed to 3.3 percent year-on-year, falling short of the annual target of 7.5 percent. The growth figures rebounded in September, but analysts said rising labor costs, unfavorable exchange rates and turbulent world economy will continue to weigh on China's exports.

BETTER-OFF PLAYERS

The fair has underscored technical innovation and transition from original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to brand building, which China has been pushing to optimize its export structure and tide over the difficult times.

Yu Yi, vice head of the China Chamber of Commerce of Metals Minerals & Chemicals Importers & Exporters, said the unstable world economy has narrowed the profit margins of Chinese contract factories, but companies with self-owned brands are faring well and still reporting growing exports.

Producers of household electrical appliances, a major player in China' s export industries, are among the better-off players. At the fair, exhibitors are displaying products like app-controlled fridges and laser cinema TVs that boast competitive prices and cutting-edge technology.

"In bad times, consumers tend to tighten their belts, which means opportunities for Chinese products with good price performance," said Alex Zhu, a deputy general manager of Chinese electronics producer Hisense.

Zhu said the export growth of Hisense television sets and refrigerators in the first three quarters surpassed the industry average thanks to the contribution by its self-owned technical brands.

Another reason to remain sanguine is China's promises of more supportive policies on foreign trade.

Gao Yuanjia, a manager with the air conditioner maker Chunlan, said with the help of tax rebates and streamlined customs procedures, the company is expecting decent growth this year.

China's central and local governments have rolled out measures to boost foreign trade following a policy document issued in May by the State Council that promises to encourage imports and exports, accelerate tax rebates and streamline clearance processes.

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