Chinese businesses visit Busan to explore new trade opportunities amid evolving Sino-Korean commerce landscape

A delegation of Chinese business leaders attends the 2024 Busan Overseas Buyer Trade Conference, hosted on Tuesday by Busan Economic Promotion Agency. Korea Times photo by Luna Sun

A delegation of Chinese business leaders arrived in Busan earlier this week to explore new procurement opportunities with local suppliers, amid fluctuating Sino-Korean trade relations. Their visit followed the meeting between the leaders of the two countries, underscoring the strategic efforts to navigate the challenges posed by current geopolitical tensions and the ever changing trade landscapes.

Although Korean products are losing some competitiveness to increasingly cost-effective and high-quality Chinese goods, their distinctive qualities still appeal to Chinese customers, said the companies, who also urged greater government support to enhance trade opportunities.

The 2024 Busan Overseas Buyer Trade Conference was hosted on Tuesday by Busan Economic Promotion Agency, a government funded non-profit foundation to provide services needed by micro enterprise and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Busan.

A total of 37 companies from seven countries, a third from China, had one-on-one business consultations with 128 small and medium sized local businesses in Busan. Japanese buyers accounted for another third of the visitors, while other companies were from the United States and Vietnam among others.

Bai Kefu, from one of the 12 companies of the Chinese delegation, runs a hotel business in Weihai city, Qingdao, and hopes to explore suppliers for items such as Korean snacks and creative kitchenware during this trip.

He said despite his old resources importing coffee and foods from South Korea before the pandemic, it is not easy to resume the work amid the increasingly uncertain environment.

“The export-import landscape between the two countries has been completely reshuffled by the pandemic. I used to import Korean coffee to China, but the old supply chain and the sales channel and supply chains have been cut off during the pandemic, many people just left the game,” Bai said.

He added that Korean foods and coffee used to be considered premium in China, and made great gifts. But now as China has cheaper alternatives whose quality are just as good, the prices of Korean products are much higher, including tariffs and transport.

In the meantime, he also pointed out that young Chinese people love Korean gadgets with stylish designs.

“Most importantly, businesspeople should first maintain frequent visits to each other, even without actual deals. There will be more opportunities once mutual understanding and communication deepened,” Bai added.

In its second year since being halted by the pandemic, the trade conference aimed to help local companies diversify their export partners through consultations with international buyers.

The sessions cover shipbuilding equipment, electronics, steel, machinery, architecture, automobile parts, hair and beauty products, food and beverages, and general consumer goods. Chinese companies primarily focused on consumer products.

Liu Wenjun, chairman of Qingdao Aovi Industrial Group from Qingdao, has been importing Red Ginseng and other products from 슬롯 South Korea since 2020, and he hoped to explore sports nutrition products, health supplements, as well as cosmetics, which are considerably recognized by Chinese consumers.

Liu said although such trade conferences could open a window for foreign traders to explore the potentials of small and medium sized companies, they are also limited by production costs, which cannot compare with large scale manufacturers.

The prospect of Sino-South trade cannot count on such dribs and drabs efforts, he said.

“Bigger developments would require more targeted support on the government level, which is not enough now.”

Liu pointed out, for instance, that governments should facilitate more investments, and strategic collaboration in localized manufacturing, to cut costs and tariffs.

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