Thursday, October 21, 2010

China-ASEAN free trade benefits will spill into exhibitions

Over the past two and half years at B2B exhibitions in Asia, there has been an unmistakeable spike in visitors from other Asian markets. This has been a trend reported by organisers across multiple markets in Asia.

In 2009 in the midst of the global recession, UBM Asia’s Hong Kong September Jewellery Fair reported a decrease in visitors from the U.S. and Europe, but that was offset by an increase in visitors from India and China. At what is now the world’s largest jewellery fair, UBM’s Chinese visitors hit nearly 6,900 – up 14%. Indian visitors increased by 12% reaching 2,200. Organisers including Global Sources and the HKTDC reported similar trends at their exhibitions.

Global Sources is clearly tapping into this trend with its launch of exhibitions focused on bringing exhibitors from China to markets such as India and more recently to Singapore next month. The last edition of Global Sources’ exhibition in Mumbai reported a 76% increase in visitors and featured 800 booths with the vast majority from China. Global Sources’ inaugural event in Singapore in November will feature 600+ booths.

Now, key free trade agreements are set to reinforce and bolster this trend. The China-ASEAN free trade agreement came into effect in January this year. At UBM’s 4th Annual Trans-Pacific Maritime Asia Conference in Shenzhen this week, delegates heard that China-ASEAN trade was up double digits in 2010. The South China Morning Post reported from the conference:

Bronson Hsieh Chih-chien, chairman of Evergreen Marine, said there was a 47.2 per cent increase to US$185.4 billion in trade between China and Asean countries from January to August. Asean countries include Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

The biggest impact was felt by the Asean countries, which saw their export volumes to China surge 54.2 per cent to US$97.3 billion, Hsieh told about 600 delegates at a transpacific shipping conference in Shenzhen.”

The agreement results in a zero tariff rate for 90% of Chinese goods. It has slashed the average tariff for Chinese goods from 12.8% down to an inconsequential 0.6%. By 2015, the agreement will extend to all ASEAN members including the four newest members Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

The rise of intra-Asian trade at B2B fairs in Asia is going to be one of the key trends to shape the exhibition industry in Asia over the coming few years. B2B exhibitions in Asia will become less reliant on U.S. and European buyers and organisers that tap into that trend will uncover significant growth opportunities with both new and existing events.