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SINGAPORE—Singapore and Malaysia provided the bulk of visitors to Aseanplas, while only a handful of North Americans attended the show, which saw significant gains in attendance from previous similar shows.

The German-based organizer, Messe Dusseldorf Asia, said the event, held Jan. 21-24 in Singapore, attracted 9,481 visitors from 47 countries — up sharply from the last two expositions it organized in Southeast Asia. Two-thirds came from Singapore and Malaysia.

Aseanplas '97 also drew 340 exhibiting companies from 25 countries, with a heavy concentration of German and Italian firms showing wares in their respective countries' government-subsidized pavilions.

Japan, which has its own, competing plastics trade show, International Plastics Fair, was barely represented. The Singapore-based trading unit of Sumitomo Heavy Industries Ltd. was the only major Japanese machinery maker exhibiting. The United States, whose government does not subsidize such events, also had a modest pavilion.

Messe Dusseldorf Asia noted that it has altered the exhibition's rotation to avoid scheduling clashes with the triennial NPE in Chicago, thereby allowing it to gain the support of NPE's organizer, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. of Washington.

Following a proliferation of plastics shows in Southeast Asia that resulted in three separate regional exhibitions being held within a seven-month span in 1995, Messe Dusseldorf teamed up with the Pan-European body Euromap and the Asean Federation of Plastic Industries to establish Aseanplas.

AFPI and another show organizer put on the first show bearing the Aseanplas name in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in March 1995. Messe Dusseldorf's show in the region had been called Interplastica, and was held in Singapore two months later. That show drew 212 exhibitors and 6,031 visitors.

The parties agreed to merge Aseanplas and Interplastica into a jointly supported Aseanplas show. The pact called for a major, regional show in Singapore every three years and, at the insistence of AFPI, also smaller, national Aseanplas shows to be held in the off years, according to Bernd Aufderheide, Messe Dusseldorf Asia managing director. The siting of those smaller expositions rotates through the capital cities of AFPI's member countries.

That led to the new, jointly sponsored Aseanplas '96 being held last year in Jakarta, Indonesia. The event drew 167 exhibitors and 4,746 attendees.

With this year's Aseanplas being held just five months prior to NPE 1997 in Chicago, SPI found itself hard-pressed to endorse the Asian show to SPI members. Normally, Aseanplas would have occurred next in Singapore in 2000, again an NPE year, but Messe Dusseldorf has moved the next Singapore show to 1999.

The shift has helped the show win further support in the West.

Jordan L. Morgenstern, vice president of trade shows for SPI in Washington, said, ``Given that they have changed the rotation and removed [future Aseanplas shows] from NPE years, we will support Aseanplas in the same manner as we have the K show in Germany in the past.''

What Messe Dusseldorf really wants next is support from Japan's International Plastic Fair Association. Tsukasa Yoda, president both of Nissei Plastic Industrial Co. Ltd. as well as of the Association of Japan Plastics Machinery, attended Aseanplas '97 as a guest of honor. Strong political undercurrents were obvious at the show's opening ceremony, where he was welcomed warmly by the organizers and encouraged to join the fold.

Aufderheide said in an interview after the show, ``My hope and belief is that JPM will join Aseanplas as a sponsor in 1999. But first they have to sort out back in Japan what they want.''

Attempts to reach IPF and JPM officials for comment recently were unsuccessful. The next IPF will be held in Japan in 1999.

Aseanplas '98 will be held March 11-14 in Bangkok, Thailand. It will be held in 2000 in Manila, Philippines; 2001 in Kuala Lumpur; 2002 in Singapore; and 2003 in Vietnam, Aufderheide said.