Results from this year's International Gifts & Housewares Fair broke last year's records, but the rate of growth slowed significantly.

The four-day show, which closed April 20, generated spot business worth HK$114 million (US$16.5 million), an increase of 18 percent on the HK$96.8 million of last year, according to the Trade Development Council.The council, which organizes the show, says business under negotiation amounted to HK$288 million, an increase of 13 percent on the HK$255 million of 1989.

Growth in spot sales last year over 1988, however, was 283 percent, and in deals under discussion, 344 percent.

This year's event attracted more than 15,000 buyers, 7,500 of whom came

from overseas, to the 396 exhibition booths. The total number of visitors was about the same as last year, but the number from abroad more than doubled from 1989's tally.

The number of displays was up from last year's 315 and included 137 from 14 overseas countries.

In conjunction with the sales event was a seminar on developments in main overseas markets, including the United States.

One of the speakers, Terry Crawford, vice chairman of the U.S. National Housewares Manufacturers Association, said his general impression of the fair was good.

In addition to selling Hong Kong wares, the fair "could serve effectively" as a link between buyers and sellers from elsewhere, said Mr. Crawford, who is president of Conimar Corp.

The show coincides with the opening of the spring session of the Chinese Export Commodities Fair north of the border in Guangzhou (Canton). The latter is China's premier sales event and attracts tens of thousands of visitors.

Mr. Crawford plans to recommend a unified U.S. delegation for next year's show, and forecasts that a score of companies will take part. He foresees a continuing strong U.S. market, especially for small electrical products.

Gifts and housewares cover a wide spectrum of items - watches and clocks, glass and ceramics, electronic gizmos, radios and cassettes, cameras, tableware and confectionery - and the show is an annual delight for the gadget-crazy as well as the merely efficient.

Total exports of such items last year brought Hong Kong almost HK$140 billion, up 17 percent on 1988, according to council figures. Imports amounted to HK$96 billion, a gain of 22 percent on the previous year.

The United States is a significant market, though detailed sales breakdowns are difficult because so many of the items are classified in other categories.

Local manufacturers are increasingly operating across the border in China, where land and labor are cheaper, K.C. Wong, chairman of the fair organizing committee, told The Journal of Commerce. That is trimming the value of domestic exports, but boosting the amount of re-xports.

Of last year's total overseas sales, domestic exports accounted for HK$50 billion, a 15 percent decline from 1988, while re-exports reached HK$83 billion, up 52 percent, he said.