The China Import and Export Fair (Canton Fair for short), co-sponsored by the Ministry of Commerce and the People’s Government of Guangdong Province, and hosted by China Foreign Trade Center, was founded on April 25, 1957 in Guangzhou every spring and autumn. It is a comprehensive international trade event with the longest history, the highest level, the largest scale, the most variety of commodities, the largest number of buyers, the widest distribution of countries and regions, and the best transaction results, known as “the first exhibition in China”.
The Canton Fair is flexible and diversified in terms of trade. In addition to the traditional sample trading, it also holds online trade fairs. The Canton Fair focuses on export trade as well as import business. It can also carry out various forms of economic and technical cooperation and exchanges, as well as commercial inspection, insurance, transportation, advertising, consulting and other business activities. The exhibition hall covers a total floor area of 1.1 million square meters, including 504,000 square meters of indoor exhibition halls and 116,000 square meters of outdoor exhibition halls.
The Canton Fair is a mecca for importers, with more than 180,000+ purchasers making a pilgrimage to Guangzhou every year to source products from more than 60,000 suppliers. The Canton Fair is held twice a year for nearly two weeks. You can think of it as the “offline version” of Alibaba.com.
In this guide, we’ll help you learn step-by-step everything you need to know to visit the Canton Fair, including whether you should go, how to prepare, how to get there and how to find incredible products there and find the best suppliers.
1. What is the Canton Fair and when will it be held?
The Canton Fair is China’s original trade fair. Held twice a year in Guangzhou, the Canton Fair used to be the only place to find Chinese factories, but with the emergence of Alibaba and Global Sources, it is still the largest trade show, though its status has changed.
The Canton Fair is not just about finding suppliers. At China’s largest fair, you can see thousands of factories and trading companies bringing samples of their own to the fair, where you can meet them up close and see the quality and workmanship of their products.
If you are currently selling products online or in traditional brick-and-mortar stores, or if you are still looking for the right products to sell, perhaps spending a few days at the Canton Fair is also a good source of inspiration. No matter what industry you are in, the Canton Fair is worth visiting almost every year.
Held twice a year in April and October, the Canton Fair has been held since the late 1950s and is divided into three phases over two weeks.
The Canton Fair is divided into three sessions, each with a different range of exhibitors
Phase 1: Large machinery and equipment, small machinery, bicycle, motorcycle, auto parts, chemical products, hardware, tools, vehicles (outdoor), construction machinery (outdoor), household appliances, consumer electronics, electronic and electrical products, computer and communication products, lighting products, building and decorative materials, sanitary equipment, Import exhibition area.
Phase 2: Kitchen appliances, daily ceramics, craft ceramics, home decoration, glass crafts, furniture, woven and rattan iron crafts, garden products, iron and stone products (outdoor), household goods, personal care appliances, bathroom products, clocks and glasses, toys, gifts and giveaways, holiday products, native products (new in the 109th edition).
Phase 3: men’s and women’s wear, children’s wear, underwear, sportswear and leisure wear, fur leather and down products and products, clothing accessories and accessories, household textiles, textile raw materials and fabrics, carpets and tapestries, food, medicine and health products, medical equipment, consumables, dressings, sports and travel leisure supplies, office stationery, shoes, luggage and bags.
The schedule of the spring 2023 Canton Fair is as follows
- Phase 1: April 15-19, 2023
- Phase 2: April 23-27, 2023
- Phase 3: May 1-5, 2022
You can choose the right time to refer to the exhibition according to your product needs. Of course, if you are not clear about your business positioning or want to expand your business scope, you can also refer to each stage. At the same time, you should pay attention to the time arrangement, because the Canton Fair is very large, if you want to see all of it, it will be a huge amount of work. Therefore, I suggest that you make a plan according to the schedule before the exhibition, which can greatly save time and improve efficiency.
Attendees at the show, known as “buyers,” walk around the booths looking at product samples and interacting with manufacturers and suppliers like a busy market, but if you haven’t been there, you can’t imagine how big it is.
Meanwhile, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Canton Fair is being held online from 2020, which means you can attend the most famous and influential Chinese trade fair from the comfort of your couch. Of course, in 2023 this year, due to the relaxation of China’s epidemic policy, the Canton Fair can be held offline, which will be a huge opportunity for both buyers and suppliers. After a three-year absence, everyone will show the best products with higher enthusiasm, and I believe that we will bring you the best product experience and service.
2. It’s a famous fair in China, but should I go?
The Canton Fair is definitely the ideal starting point for those who have made a few imports through websites such as Alibaba and want to take the next leap in their business.
That said, if you’ve been looking for suppliers through Alibaba and want to make the next leap, or if this is your first business visit to China, you should go;
If you have existing suppliers who will also be attending the show, you should go because then you can easily meet face to face and also greet multiple suppliers, you should go;
If you want to import mass market consumer goods, you should go! The Canton Fair is very friendly to foreigners.
Guangzhou is located in Guangdong Province, near Hong Kong.
As we said before about the location of Guangzhou, we know that Guangzhou is located in the south of China, near Hong Kong. Guangzhou is an international airport, Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, with a large number of direct flights from North America, Europe and Asia…
So you can choose to fly directly to Guangzhou, but some people still decide to take the Hong Kong route, because a few years ago, most of the audience of the Canton Fair first went to Hong Kong and then took a bus to Guangzhou, both can be on your schedule.
Traveling to China can be a bit complicated due to cultural and language barriers.
Because of this, many agencies specialize in helping foreigners travel for business so that they don’t need to spend time preparing for their trip, thus being as efficient as possible and avoiding the potential inconvenience of moving around a strange city.
They can provide the following services:
- Book a hotel
- Private transportation to hotels and exhibitions
- Tourists visit Guangzhou and its surrounding areas
- English translation services and guided Tours
However, if you decide to book your own, it is best to book 3 or 4 weeks in advance, as the best value for money rooms in the most popular hotels will be snapped up. Only a few hotels are close to the actual Canton Fair pavilion. Expect to pay over $300 per night (usually over $500).
3. Canton Fair audience registration
Canton Fair and other exhibitions are very strict in the management of visitors, high ticket prices, identification chips and public security system binding, face recognition system card swiping, etc., many ordinary visitors are afraid, but it is of great help to the convention to control the professionalism of the museum staff.
The following are some documents related to the Canton Fair:
Exhibitor’s Certificate: It is valid for 5 days for the staff to enter the exhibition hall. There is no limit to the number of entry and exit during the exhibition.
Exhibition representative Card: It is the most common temporary card for exhibitors or visitors to enter the exhibition temporarily. The certificate is used for exhibitors or visitors who visit for one or two days. Within the validity period, there is no limit to the number of entry and exit. Advantages: Daily charge, fast certification, flexible selection of exhibition time, cheap price.
Buyer’s Certificate: the certificate for overseas company personnel (compatriots in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan) to visit and purchase. A small number of people from the Chinese mainland can also be assigned. This card can be worn to obtain business card information from exhibitors and negotiate business. The exhibitor list can be obtained free of charge at the information desk with this card during the exhibition. Advantages: Unlimited use during the Canton Fair (valid for three years and six times), cost-effective, requires the original Chinese passport (with a visa record) to handle.
Purchasing Representative Certificate: The certificate used by the staff of overseas companies in China. There is a small number of quota for mainland people in each term. It can be used in the first, second and third term of the same term. Within the validity period, there is no limit to the number of entry and exit, and it is universal throughout the museum. Wearing this card can facilitate the exhibitors to obtain business card information and negotiate business.
Certificate for domestic buyers: the certificate for domestic buyers to visit and purchase in the museum. Within the validity period, there is no limit to the number of entry and exit, and it is universal throughout the museum. Wearing this card can facilitate the exhibitors to obtain business card information and negotiate business.
Service Provider Certificate: Used by staff engaged in trade service organizations and service staff in the library. It is available for general use in the first, second and third issues of the current term. Within the validity period, there is no limit to the number of entry and exit. Wear this certificate.
Of course, if you are coming from abroad to participate in the fair, the best option is to pre-register online on the official website of the Canton Fair, which is free. You can also register at the Canton Fair, but this will cost you 200 yuan ($30).
Once you arrive at the venue, you can pick up the Buyer’s badge, which is a simple procedure. You need to submit the following information:
- Pre-registration number (if any)
- Company name
- Passport number
According to Chinese regulations, foreigners must carry their passports with them at all times. While this is rarely enforced, I highly recommend that you keep it with you at all times, not least because it may be required for registration and is the only way to prove your identity.
Canton Fair visa requirements
According to the current visa regulations in mainland China, visitors to the Canton Fair need to apply for M visa. What are the requirements for applying for M visa? To obtain an M visa, you need to meet the following conditions:
- An original passport valid for at least six months
- 4.5cm*3.5cm blue base photo two
- Invitation letter from Canton Fair or Chinese company (if you get visa through Chinese agency, they may purchase invitation letter for you)
- Copy of business license of Chinese company
- Business cards with your company name and contact information (phone, email, etc.)
The invitation should contain your information (name, date of birth, etc.), travel details (purpose of visit, date of arrival and departure, place of visit, etc.), and information about the approved company your invitation letter.
Invitations can be issued by organizations and individuals to help applicants obtain visas.
Please note that visas will not be issued on arrival but must be obtained prior to boarding.
Invitations issued by the Canton Fair are optional, not mandatory. However, it is still recommended that you pre-register and obtain a buyer’s card. As mentioned earlier, you can obtain invitations from vendors or other organizations with whom you intend to do business.
The only requirement is that the company be registered in mainland China. This does not include companies registered in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, which is the main route into mainland China.
4. Other suggestions of the Canton Fair
Before you come to China, find out if there are any other fairs in Guangzhou that coincide with the Canton Fair. There are several other exhibitions across the road when you attend the Canton Fair, but you may not visit these (but hopefully you will!). . As far as I know, some of them are smaller in scale but better in quality.
Don’t feel pressured to place orders during the Canton Fair. When you get on a plane, you should have at least a few good choices of suppliers. However, this is only the beginning of the process. The next step is to test them to see if they can deliver.
More china trade Fair guide for your reference:
No matter what business you want to deal with, believe me, there will be a good choice at the Canton Fair. Of course, there may be some minor barriers to visiting China, including cultural and language barriers, if you are participating internationally, but Guangzhou is a modern Westernized city with convenient transportation and relative safety. I believe it can bring you a good experience.
The Canton Fair is truly a unique experience — you should try it at least once. Meeting and reviewing products with Chinese manufacturers and suppliers will open your eyes to new possibilities and opportunities for your business.