by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | April 01, 2008

The Shanghai New International Expo Centre

The Shanghai
New International
Expo Centre

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce has proposed a new set of regulations pertaining to foreign trade shows that has some show organizers worried about the future of their events in mainland China.

The rules, introduced on Jan. 11, apply to trade shows that have 20 percent or more international participants, whether as exhibitors or attendees. Requirements include:

* Applications for a show must be filed six months out, and promotional materials must be approved in advance, as well;

* Show organizers must work with a “domestic legal person,” from an approved local agency, as a partner;

* Organizers must follow rules that dictate what the show’s name can be; and

* No more than two exhibitions can be held in any city by the same organizer, for the same industry, in the same year.

David Heilbrunn, show manager for Bellevue, Wash.-based Coffee Fest Trade Shows, said he will need to learn more about the rules, especially since Coffee Fest, which is holding its first international show in Hong Kong later this year, is considering branching out to the Chinese mainland.

“Getting advance government approval for promotional materials is an unfortunate potential requirement,” Heilbrunn said, “because it would push our lead time on creating materials much further out than we are accustomed to.”

Steven Hacker, CAE, president of the Dallas-based International Association of Exhibitions and Events, said that while the rules could be an attempt by Chinese authorities to help the exhibition industry avoid potential chaos, they are troublesome and could have a chilling effect on the momentum of foreign trade shows in China.

According to Hacker, many IAEE members have voiced concerns regarding the proposed regulations, and IAEE, which has an office in China, is working with the authorities there on modifying the requirements.

“What is worrisome is how vague they are, which allows for considerable interpretation,” said Hacker. “For example, what defines a ‘partner’? How do they plan to enforce these rules, and what are the penalties for break-
ing them?”

At press time, the Chinese government, which had established a deadline of Jan. 28 for receiving comments on its new rules proposal, had not given any indication when it planned to implement them officially.