Julian Hunt, Shanghai US food exporters gathered in Shanghai this week for the Sial China exhibition were optimistic that the spy plane row between the two countries would not escalate into a damaging trade war. The US pavilion featured 14 organisations, including the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council. Chicken is big business for the US. The country accounts for 80% of the 800,000t of poultry imported into China each year. Marketing manager Golden Gu said he had seen no signs of any backlash. "We keep all economic and political things separate. We will keep on with our strategy of developing business in China," he added. America's total food and drink exports to China grew 45% last year, and are now worth $3bn a year, with soya beans representing a huge chunk of that business. Another US trader in Shanghai said: "Sure, if you were planning to run a promotion with the Stars and Stripes you would probably have cancelled that. But there are no trade implications because there is too much at stake." Politics aside, the Americans gave SiaL a major boost this week by officially endorsing its next Chinese exhibition, set to return to Shanghai in 2002. Sial China 2001, which closed yesterday, featured 400 exhibitors from 33 countries and was expected to attract 15,000 trade visitors. But while there were strong contingents from France, Italy and Spain, British exhibitors were noticeable by their absence ­ as they were at the inaugural 2000 show. Operations director Laurent Cotteret said: "I think British companies should be here but we have not succeeded in having a British participation." One US exhibitor, showing at Sial China for the first time, was more pointed: "I know there are a lot of exhibitions to attend. "But what does the fact there are no British companies here tell you about their commitment to China?" {{NEWS }}