There is a notable no-show among the dozens of national pavilions at Shanghai's massive import fair -- the United States -- a metaphor for isolationist Trump policies that attendees say are pushing them closer to China.

The China International Import Expo opened Monday with thousands of foreign companies wooing Chinese buyers with products including Italian helicopters, Canadian fur, Dominican cigars, and Japanese fresh fish.

China touts the first annual event as a milestone marking its economic transition from "the world's factory" to a major consuming nation, and President Xi Jinping opened it with a vow to import $30 trillion in goods and services over the next 15 years.

But the US has snubbed the gathering amid an increasingly bitter tariffs standoff with China, with Donald Trump accusing it of unfair trade practices.

And foreign businesses and officials at the show said the US president's combative approach to trade has made it imperative for them to turn more toward China.

Sigfrido Reyes, an El Salvadoran trade official, said market turbulence caused by Trump had hurt his country by driving down prices of commodities such as coffee.

It now looks to China to reduce reliance on the United States.

"What really worries us is the uncertainty. In an uncertain environment, everybody loses. So we don’t want to have all our eggs in one basket," Reyes said.

'We want to diversify'

China is expected to remain reliant on US electronics and other high-tech goods that it, and other countries, cannot yet supply.

But tariffs imposed by each side could cut off the flow of a range of other US goods.

While few dispute that China's mercantilist trade policies need to change, the trade spat has started to bite in the United States, where a Chinese shift to non-US suppliers of soybeans and other key import goods has left American farmers without buyers.

Major Chinese meat importers also have told AFP they will simply source from other countries.

Even Canada, which relies heavily on US trade, wants to diversify.

"Of course we are close to the US and we always will be. But we want to diversify our trade, especially including China because it's a huge country," said John McCallum, Canadian ambassador to China.

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