Exports from China rose 3.3 percent from a year earlier to USD 221.5 billion in July 2019, defying market expectations of a 2 percent drop and following a 1.3 percent decline in June. This was the fastest yearly growth in overseas sales since March despite escalating trade tensions with the US.
Among China’s largest trade partners, exports rose to the EU (6.5 percent), ASEAN (15.6 percent), South Korea (9.2 percent), Taiwan (19.9 percent), and Australia (1.1 percent), but fell to the US (-6.5 percent) and Japan (-4.1 percent). *
Why do I start my editorial with the preceding facts? It is simple, as this edition of Asia Pacific Fire is being read by our customers, China Fire 19 is on in Beijing. For those that haven’t been to China Fire let me give you a taste. China fire is expected to have 850+ exhibitors in the exhibition halls, an outside demonstration area as large as a football field and another three football fields full of appliances in a static display. There is an expectation that 50,000+ people will visit China Fire 19 to be held in the new China International Exhibition Centre, Beijing. This show is second only to Interschutz next year in Germany where they are expecting 1500 exhibitors and 150,000 visitors. It is fair to say that these two exhibitions cover most of the fire industry as we know it.
Most of you will be aware of the growing sophistication in the Asian (not just China) fire equipment and protection market. This along with the growth in exports (figures are general and not fire specific) will result in traditional European and United States markets facing greater competition and consumers having a greater range to choose from.
If you see this as a problem, let me give you another perspective. The established fire protection and equipment industry is maturing, building regulations now only give comparatively small increases in protection growth via regulation in comparison to 1960s and 70s regulations jumps. Firefighting equipment is improving but not as rapidly as in the 1980s, just take for example the kit a firefighter uses now compared to then, changes to this kit will be marginal until the next technology is invented. However, the rest of the world needs to catch up in all things safety. Without naming the countries, consider an Asian country with a large tourist economy, mandating sprinklers in all hotels or a country of 30+ million people up grading all their 3000 fire tankers and/or a large Pacific Island purchasing boots for its 900 firefighters.
At China Fire these are the discussions that are taking place and if you are not there you are missing out on significant opportunities.
Being in attendance at an exhibition like China Fire 19 is the first step, however selling into the non-first world countries is more about relationships built on those initial meetings. Once you have built that relationship, it is important to sell the full package, e.g. don’t sell a breathing apparatus, sell a maintenance, testing and training system as well. Help them write the sprinkler legislation and include maintenance, inspect and enforcement, don’t just take a first world standard and make it fit.
A country cannot purchase from an exporter no matter how good the product is if it doesn’t have the funds. This is the problem all exporters have when dealing with poorer countries, more and more the larger contracts are being won by companies that have the wherewithal to provide or facilitate funding for the purchase. Ensure that there is ongoing funding for maintenance and the agency/state has the ability to service the funding. If the product falls into disrepair it will then be your reputation that is trashed.
Let me summarize
- Asia is exporting in a big way, not with second rate equipment, but state of the art, innovative and cost-effective equipment.
- This is now also followed with their own intellectual property protection.
- It is not just serving the local market but moving at light speed into all established markets.
- As a consumer I can only see benefits in the competition that is now entering the market.
- If you are a traditional fire protection company and not willing to embrace this new world, look out.
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