DUBAI, May 13 -- A three-day fair and exhibition of Chinese home products opened Tuesday in the Dubai Airport Expo Center in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with Chinese firms getting together to seek business opportunities in the Gulf Arab nation.
Inaugurated by Chinese Consul-General to Dubai Gao Youzhen and UAE Minister for Foreign Trade Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the China HomLife Show hosts some 200 suppliers from China showing more than 1,000 home products, such as kitchen machines, decoration items, carpets, beds and toys.
The Chinese firms are actively looking for representation or distribution contracts in the UAE, and also other five members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Economic and trade relations between China and the UAE have been growing constantly in the past decade. The China-UAE trade has seen a 37-percent annual growth rate. It reached $28.2 billion in 2008, up from $2.5 billion in 2002.
But the global financial crisis took its toll. The China-UAE trade declined last year to $21.2 billion.
Still, many Chinese companies are in the process of discovering the Gulf nation, considered as one of the most open economies in the Middle East.
"I was a middle school teacher for 23 years," said Elisa Cai, vice president of textile firm Shanghai Xitian Corporation Development Co Ltd.
"Then my husband asked me to join the company, because it was growing so fast," she said.
Cai said she hoped to find new business partners in Dubai at the China HomLife Show, which also hosts the Chinese Calligraphy and Painting exhibition with more than 200 artworks.
Dubai harbors the region's biggest free port, the Jebel Ali where export companies are exempted from duties. The Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority is home to 5,500 international companies. This opens opportunities for Chinese firms based near ports as well.
Eric Lee, a sales manager from Ningbo Chaozhou Electric Appliance Technology Co Ltd, aims to take advantage of the fact that Ningbo, a city in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang, is the second important seaport city after Shanghai and already well connected with Dubai.
At his company's stand, Lee showed Emirati and Indian trade managers his portfolio of home electric items such as food processors, steamers and vacuum cleaners.
"Prices for our products are almost the same like those from the Unites States, but Chinese quality is certainly higher," he said. "We have already clients in the UAE, but we would like to increase the number."
His company's products reached Dubai by ship, but Lee came by plane. He came with Air China from Ningbo to Shanghai, then from Shanghai he flew with his two colleagues to Beijing and from the Chinese capital finally to Dubai.
"It was a 10 hours flight totally but it was worth it. We see a lot of interest in our quality items and last but not least it is a very wealthy city," Lee said.
Quality is also sales argument used by Reach Wang, a senior sales manager at Xilinmen Furniture Co Ltd from Shaoxing in Zhejiang province, when he talked with potential Arab trade partners.
For the past 26 years, Xilinmen has been producing furniture and bed mattresses. The company runs three factories, two in Shaoxing and one new factory near Beijing.
"Our biggest market is North America where we are exporting," said Wang, whose clients include some of the world's leading hotel brands.
"Hotel chains like Radisson SAS, JW Marriott, Hilton or Mandarin Oriental are loyal buyers of our Xilinmen design mattresses. But the Middle East accounts only for 10 percent of our business. We aim to increase our business volume by exhibiting here at the fair," he added.