Export contracts signed at a major trade fair in China hit their lowest in four years, state media reported, indicating foreign demand for the country's goods is still weak.
The value of export deals signed at the China Import and Export Fair reached 194.61 billion yuan ($31.7 billion), the lowest since the depths of the financial crisis in 2009, the official Xinhua news agency said after the event closed Monday.
The figure also marked a fall of three percent from the last autumn session and a 10.9 percent decline from the spring session this year, according to a statement on the fair's website.
The twice-yearly event -- also called the Canton Fair after the former foreign designation for the southern city of Guangzhou -- was created in 1957 and is the largest trade event in China making it a barometer of the country's foreign trade, Xinhua said.
"The decrease from both the spring and last autumn sessions indicated that the world economic recovery remains on an uncertain and unstable course, which continues to challenge the stability and development of China's foreign trade," the report quoted fair spokesman Liu Jianjun as saying.
Exports to emerging markets including India, Brazil and those in Southeast Asia, generally fell year on year, with those to the Middle East leading the decrease with a drop of 15.5 percent, according to the fair's statement.
Shipments to the United States and Japan increased 11.8 percent and 42.8 percent year-on-year respectively, in contrast with a fall of 2.4 percent to the European Union, it added.
The three-week fair opened on October 15.
China's exports rose eight percent year-on-year in the first nine months of the year, slightly faster than the 7.4 percent in the same period in 2012 but far slower than double-digit increases in the previous two years, official data shows.
The sluggish foreign trade performance has cast gloom on the country's export-driven economy, with concerns rising that a recovery in the third quarter, when economic growth picked up to 7.8 percent, may not be sustainable.