General Articles

The Fair that Means Business

Seller from Sweden and buyer from Bengal have a date in Toronto next month at America’s first world trade fair

C. FRED BODSWORTH May 15 1948
General Articles

The Fair that Means Business

Seller from Sweden and buyer from Bengal have a date in Toronto next month at America’s first world trade fair

C. FRED BODSWORTH May 15 1948

The Fair that Means Business

C. FRED BODSWORTH

Seller from Sweden and buyer from Bengal have a date in Toronto next month at America’s first world trade fair

WANT SOME genuine Brazilian antisnakebite serum? A locomotive? Wine from Cyprus? Kissproof Parisian lipstick in 17 shades? Then drop around to the big fair at the exhibition grounds in Toronto next month. There, displayed for buyers from 60-odd of the world’s leading nations, will be these and a thousand other products of farm, factory and studio from almost every corner of the globe.

For this is no ordinary fair, with hula-hula girls and hot dogs, prize bulls and bingos. This is the Canadian International Trade Fair, the first of its kind ever held on this continent. The Dominion Department of Trade and Commerce is sponsoring it, not to entertain and amaze the multitude but for the deadly serious purpose of boosting the export and import trade of the whole world and Canada in particular.

This mammoth international market place will be doing business from May 29 to June 12. Except for the three Saturdays, admission will be restricted to the 50,000 world trade representatives who will come bearing official invitations from the Canadian Government. Here, attired in tropical whites, Indian turbans, gaudy sombreros or the conventional business suits of the western world, they will buy and sell, dicker and argue and hammer out the contracts that will form the pattern for the world trade of tomorrow. There will be no room for sight-seers.

Most of the world’s leading powers will be represented in force; so will smaller nations like Cyprus, Egypt, Malaya, Palestine, Portugal and dozens of others. Czechoslovakia will be the only representative from the Russian sphere; her arrangements were made before the Communist coup. Russia, which received her invitation with the rest, declined with a thank-you. Germany and Japan were originally invited and planned to take part, but permission was Continued on pape 28

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refused by the British and U. S. occupational authorities. Spain, the world’s wallflower nation, wasn’t favored with an invitation at all.

Canada will be the host, but the fair will belong to the traders and businessmen of every nation who will have a free hand to buy what they like and from whom they like, subject, of course, to the tariff laws of their own lands. But the Canadian Government has arranged the fair with eyes on her own purse strings.

One third of every Canadian dollar is built up of the proceeds of international trade. When the war ended, Canada was left with a vastly increased industrial capacity and few markets for its output. Unless Canada dug up new foreign markets for her wares, the (’anadian standard of living was going to stub its toe and tumble.

But before other nations can buy Canadian goods, they must sell their own. Canada’s trade prosperity depends on world trade prosperity.

The Big Gamble

So, in August, 1946, the Department of ’Trade and Commerce launched its plans for the Canadian International 'Trade Fair. It would be a trading crossroads where producers and buyers of the entire world could meet. Where Brazilian could meet the Britisher and say in effect:

“You buy my tea and I’ll be able to buy your refrigerators.”

And uppermost was the idea of throwing a big coming-out party for Canada's many new war-born industries. a party that would bring the world’s big import buyers to Canada’s doorstep where Canadian industrialists could show off and sell the products of their new factories. If it worked, it would put new dollars into every Canadian pocket.

If it worked . . .

'Trade Minister J. A. MacKinnon and bis co-workers knew they were playing a big gamble. ’The trade-fair idea itself wasn't new Europe had been staging trade fairs since the 12th century—but never before liad one been staged on this side of the Atlantic. ’They could throw their party, yes . . . but would anyone come?

Now, on the eve of the fair, it can be said that all those preliminary hopes, and more, promise to be fulfilled. A world hungry for new avenues of international trade responded so avidly to Canada’s invitations that the fair executive is embarrassed now at their misgivings when their plans were first launched two years ago.

These plans have been handled by the ('anadian Government Exhibition Commission, a division of the Department of ’Trade and Commerce responsible for seeing that Canada is represented on world fairs and international exhibitions. Kingpin of the trade-fair planners is Glenn Bannerman, director of this commission.

Imitations to exhibit went out via Canada's trade commissioners to all of the world’s main exporting nations. " The original aim was to secure 600 such exhibits which would be housed in the Coliseum at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds.” Mr. Bannerman recalled. “Instead of 600, we got 1.500: space in the Coliseum was quickly filled and we had to arrange for use of the Automotive and Electrical buildings as well.”

Exhibiting firms will hail from 32 different countries. Canada with 880

firms represented and Britain with 260 will be the two largest exhibitors, but there will also be 110 from the U. S., 95 from Czechoslovakia, 40 from Brazil, 30 from France and so many others that the list reads like a grade eight geography lesson.

'The Department of Trade and Commerce bad the floor show for its party, now they had to get the importers of the world to come and be the audience. This campaign commenced about a year ago and will continue until the fair’s opening day. Official invitations and brochures describing the fair have gone out to every big importing firm of the world. Advertisements in 25 languages have been appearing in the newspapers and trade journals of 75 different countries. Mr. Bannerman estimated the number of buyers from North America at 40,000, and from outside it at more than 10,000.

Said one member of the executive: “Our foreign advertising campaign has worked so well that businessmen in Patagonia probably know more about the Canadian International Trade Fair than the businessmen of Medicine Hat.” In Britain the London Times last October published a bulky 32page special edition devoted solely to the ’Trade Fair and a survey of world trade.

Accommodation for 50,000 out-oftown visitors had officials biting their nails for a long time. Hotel accommodation in ’Toronto was surveyed and found to be thousands of rooms short. But, with the co-operation of the mayor and council, a special committee lined up rooms in private homes. Every room was inspected by a Toronto official before it was booked. Result— there will be a room for everyone.

The reception committee’s job didn’t end with lining up beds and breakfasts. It had to arrange also for trade fair information desks at Union Station and Malton airport, staffed with interpreters to meet arriving guests. Every assistance possible has been arranged. Imagine you are a buyer from Afghanistan getting off a plane at Malton to attend the fair. Almost as soon as you leave the plane you are confronted with a booth which has numerous signs above it and one of these signs states in your own language: “Canadian International 'Trade Fair.” The girl probably startles you by replying in your own tongue. She asks to see your credentials and then within two or three minutes you are city-bound in a taxi, carrying in your pocket a map of Toronto, a trade fair catalogue and the address of your lodgings.

How It Will Work

Lining up interpreters with qualifications to unravel the Trade Fair’s anticipated babel of tongues has been one of the toughest chores. ’The search was aided by the embassies of foreign nations at Ottawa. Recently when the list of participating nations was checked off against the list of interpreters who had been signed up, it was found that only one tongue had yet to be provided for Erse, the Gaelic tongue of Ireland.

’The fair will provide other services to buyer and seller, too. Here might be the story of a typical transaction.

A Montreal manufacturer of power saws for Canada’s lumber industry has some of his saws on display. His exhibit is a $2,000 gamble. Rent for his booth has cost $300 and probably he has spent around $1,500 in setting up the exhibit. Many thousands of businessmen file past each day and among them is a lumbering supply dealer from Oslo, Norway. He has looked over several types of power saws exhibited by U. S., British, Canadian

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Continued from page 28 and Czech firms. He decides the saws produced in Montreal appear to be the best suited for his country.

The Norwegian doesn’t want to trust his knowledge of English for detailed negotiations, so he and the Montrealer move out to the reception centre where they obtain the assistance of a Norwegian-English interpreter.

If the saws can be delivered in Norway that summer the Oslo buyer is prepared to place an immediate order for 500. They call in a shipping expert who tells them that the delivery can be made in time. But the Norwegian is still uncertain about his own country’s tariff on power machinery from Canada. A tariff expert at the 'Frade Fair obtains a copy of Norway’s customs regulations for the buyer but the Norwegian, to make sure, cables Oslo for full details from a cable office at the fair.

Next day this tariff problem has been settled but the Norwegian businessman has to have latest information on the exchange rate between Canadian dollars and Norwegian kroners. This is quickly provided by one of the Trade Fair’s foreign exchange advisers. Finally the purchasing contract is drawn up and signed. Five hundred saws at $400 each the Montreal firm has bagged a $200,000 order from their $2,000 Trade Fair gamble.

What the total amount of such transactions will be, the Trade Fair executive will never know.

“Our job has been to design a fair to facilitate international buying and selling,” Mr. Drayton says. “What goes on between individual producers and buyers will be their private business alone. But there is no doubt that commitments involving millions of dollars will be made every day.”

What, No Bird’s Nest Soup!

Among the thousands of articles to be exhibited are all the familiar things everyone knows from daily experience and a handful more of colorful oddities which even the tradewise men of Canada’s Trade a nd Commerce Depa rtment had never heard of. The Trade Fair catalogue in which every exhibit is listed is a complete A-to-Z encyclopedia of the world’s commercial production.

“You can sav that we'll have everything that travels the trade routes of the world,” an official in charge of exhibit bookings told me. “No. everything except one,” he amended. “We were to have an exhibit of edible bird nests from China, but the Hong Kong merchant who was bringing them had to cancel his exhibit because his supply this year is just sufficient to take care of the export trade he already has.”

But the Trade Fair will have many other exotic curiosities. One of the queerest will be antivenom serums from the largest snake farm in the world, operated by the Butantan Institute of Sao Paulo, Brazil. The serums are used by doctors of tropical countries in treating persons who have been bitten by poisonous snakes.

“And if that’s not exotic enough for you,” continued the official in charge of exhibit bookings, “how about this one? Real South Sea Island sarongs from Batavia, Java.”

The official went on down his list of exhibits. Model English boats and planes powered by miniature Diesel engines and jet-propulsion units; prefabricated houses from England and Canada; emeralds from Colombia, Oriental embroideries, silk lingerie and curios from Shanghai: olives and olive

oils from Greece; radium from Canada’s famous Eldorado mine; Malayan pew-

ter ware and untarnishable metals from Singapore: gems from Siam and Ceylon; carved ivory figurines and other art wares from Madras, India; citrus concentrates and beverages from Tel Aviv, Palestine; old-fashioned English Christmas puddings . . . the list goes on for pages, a helter-skelter ramble around the world.

Several newcomers to Canada’s fastgrowing family of industries will make their world debuts at the Trade Fair. Side by side with famous French binoculars and optical instruments from Britain and the U. S. will be Canadian lenses, microscopes, refractometers, spectroscopes and binoculars. Canada is using the Trade Fair, too, to get her oar into the world radar market. A wartime leader in radar production, Canada will have the latest types of radar installations for ocean and inland shipping exhibited beside similar equipment from Britain and the U. S. In the Electrical Building will be at least one, and maybe more, sleek streamlined Diesel locomotives from the Montreal Locomotive Works.

On the Trade Fair’s grounds will be several Canadian-produced aircraft, among them the “Canadair Four.”

Liquor Under Wraps

But one of the Trade Fair’s most exotic and world-panoramic displays will have to be discreetly curtained from view on the Saturdays when the general public attend. Spirits, one of the big items in world trade, will be widely represented but since public advertising displays of this nature are illegal in Ontario, this exhibit will be on view during the fair’s business days only. It will include wines, champagnes and select liqueurs from France and other big wine exhibits from Portugal, South Africa and Cyprus. (This is Cyprus’ only exhibit at the Trade Fair.) The world’s best rums will be there, from Jamaica and Barbados. And whiskies will include exhibits from Britain’s leading distillers, from the U. S. and from every Canadian distiller. Canada’s brewers will also be on hand with a comprehensive cross-section view of Canadian beers and ales.

The Saturday crowds of sight-seers are going to be shortchanged by the Trade Fair’s fashion displays too. Textiles, furs and clothing will be one of the largest displays, including exhibits fron practically every participating nation. Twice daily there will be a fashion show in the main lounge at which carefully selected (’anadian girl models will show off the latest creations of the world’s leading dress and clothing designers. The buyers are interested in the fashions for next fall and winter and it is those fashions which they will be scanning during the fair’s midweek business days. But the unwritten code of the trade demands that these fashions be kept hidden from the public eye until at least late summer, so on Saturdays when milady and her friends flock to the Trade Fair they’ll see a special series of displays and a fashion show featuring only the styles of the coining summer.

The Association of Swiss Watch Manufacturers, representing 50 Swiss firms, is shipping an entire watch and clock factory to occupy 4,000 square feet at the Trade Fair. This factory will be in operation during the entire fair a new, though temporary, industry for Canada.

But the U. S. Time Corporation, big U. S. watch and clock manufacturer, has a trump card, too. It is bringing its world-famous collection of historical and antique timepieces to Toronto, including the famous heart-shaped Continued on page 33

Continued from page 30 watch set with 1,724 pearls and 158 turquoises which Napoleon presented as a love token to Josephine.

From 75 to 100 letters and cables of enquiry have been pouring daily for months into the Trade Fair executive offices at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds. One English dress designer wanted the dimensions of Canadian models, then decided to bring his own. A Brazilian exhibitor of maté, a South American tea, requested and got special permission to bring 100 pounds of a highly refined Brazilian sugar to serve with samples of his product.

But a Cairo merchant sent the most startling request of all. His letter, on a plain sheet of wrinkled paper and containing numerous errors, was evidently typed by himself. He said that since Canadian currency was extremely scarce in Egypt, there would be no value in his attending unless—could

the Trade Fair people dig him up a Canadian loan of a million dollars? The readers blinked, then read on and discovered that the Egyptian meant business. He was offering 250,000 Egyptian pounds as security. His letter was hustled off to Ottawa where it landed on the desk of the Trade and Commerce minister himself. The minister wrote a personal reply. If the Cairo gentleman wishes to spend a million dollars to buy Canadian goods and has 250,000 Egyptian pounds collateral, most certainly Canada will provide you wit h the loan.

Almost two years of planning is at an end. The curtain will soon go up on a Canadian International Trade Fair that will be three or four times bigger than what was originally visualized. The policy makers of the Trade and Commerce Department haven’t said so definitely yet, but it has been hinted that the Trade Fair might become an annual function. ^