Saturday, January 17, 2009

Obama and the trade fair industry

He is, even in advance of Tuesday's inauguration, being credited with miraculous powers. Put a wand in his hand, some seem to feel, and Barack "Harry Potter" Obama will defeat the forces of evil and send us all off to some economic equivalent of Honeydukes Sweetshop to eat Bertie Botts' beans until we are sick.

I hadn't seen a trade fair industry twist to the new President's apparently miraculous powers until reading this piece from TradeShow Week. There is actually a serious point here: international participation in US shows did suffer badly after the security clampdowns which followed 9/11. Some actually pointed to that as one of the contributing factors to the demise of Comdex.

I was under the impression that things had improved. But, the TradeShow Week piece quotes Charles Olentine, executive vice president of the U.S. Poultry & Egg Assn., saying that "he's looking forward to how changes might impact the association's Intl. Poultry Exposition". More than 10% of that event's visitors are international and the Olentine is quoted saying that "One of the major difficulties the show faces in attracting them is visa restrictions".

Apparently, the industry is hoping that Obama's pledge to rebuild ties with the rest of the world will extend to making it easier for business visitors to get into the US (or even just into the increasingly miserable US embassies around the world). We shall see. I suspect he may have higher priorities. And, Bush's great legacy to American bureaucracy, the Dept. of Homeland Security has just made it harder for people even from the visa waiver countries to get in by implementing the new ESTA computerised pre-notification system.

It seems I was not the first to think of the Harry Potter link. In doing a quick search here, I discover that The Spoof has decided that the young magician would be the perfect nominee for Deputy Secretary of Commece. Given Bill Richardson's withdrawal from the top job, perhaps young Harry can simply step up and magic along some US exports.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Thoughts from Nanjing

Just arrived in a very frosty Nanjing for the annual CEFCO meeting of China's exhibition industry. The conference, which usually attracts around 500 people, is titled "Forging Ahead Against Crisis" and it will be interesting to take the temperature of the industry both here in China and from around the world. I hope it's warmer than the weather which has warmed up at midday to 4° from a 'challenging' -6°overnight.

The mood won't, though, be much helped by the news that, according to the BBC, "China's exports have dropped into their biggest decline in a decade". They were 2.8% year-on-year in December while imports tumbled a disastrous 21.3%. This will widen the trade gap and make it even more likely that some of the new Democrats in Washington will push for unwise trade actions against China, further deepening the spiral. Let's hope not and that steadier heads among the Obamistas prevail.

My room at the Fraser Suites looks out over the amazing building pictured here which is, I gather, the Nanjing Olympic Centre.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Swing back to mega events?

Happy New Year. What a lazy blogger I've been. Ah well. I am, however, intrigued enough by the suggestion that Apple will abandon Macworld in favour of CES to sharpen the iGooseQuill and share a few thoughts (thanks by the way to Colin Crawford for pointing to this piece via his Facebook status).

Received wisdom since the dotcom crash and the demise of Comdex has been that technology events are fragmenting and becoming more focused and specialised. Apple's shunning of Comdex, CES and other similar shows for the single brand Macworld has been offered frequently (by me amongst many others) as the best example of this key trend. We wondered when it might roll around the world and hit big events elsewhere, most notably CeBIT in Hannover.

Is this something to do with the economic downturn driving people back to big fairs or more a feature of Apple's repositioning itself as a consumer products company?